Tuesday, April 14, 2020

China: Church Members Detained During Easter Service

04/14/2020 -  International Christian Concern (ICC), a human rights organization focused on Christian persecution around the world,  is reporting that during an online worship session in China to celebrate Easter on April 12, several key members of the heavily persecuted Early Rain Covenant Church (ERCC) were taken away from their homes.

The Sichuan house church has not been able to gather in person since the government clamped down on the church on December 9, 2018 (long before the coronavirus pandemic) and arrested their pastor and other leaders. This Easter, the church was conducting an online worship session, when suddenly six leaders were taken by the Public Security Bureau from their homes.

A member of ERCC told ICC, “At that time I was also in the Zoom call, but there was a long period of time where I did not hear a thing. I thought it’s the network connection issue at first, but I soon heard a quarrel erupt. Our coworker Wang Jun was questioning some people, [saying], ‘Who are you to do this [to us]?’”

She added that, in addition to Wang, other leaders such as Guo Haigang, Wu Wuqing, Jia Xuewei, Zhang Jianqing and Zhang Xudong were also taken away. One member’s home had its electricity cut off, while others received phone calls that “police [were] coming to visit them soon.”

A supporter of ERCC also shared on Twitter, “Since 8:30 a.m., some security officials have entered these Christian families’ homes and pretended to be chatting with them casually. At 9:30 a.m., the worship began, and they were also invited to participate. Once they realized that the sermon was from ERCC’s imprisoned pastor Wang Yi, they immediately shut it down.”

Her account was echoed by Zhang Jiangqing, who was warned by the police at his house, saying, “Don’t participate in already banned [religious] activities anymore! Don’t listen to Pastor [Wang]’s sermons anymore! If you do this again, we will deal with it seriously and take you away!”

The six briefly detained Christians have since been released, and their electricity was restored in the afternoon.

It is not uncommon for the local authorities to take additional measures against ERCC during major Christian celebrations or anniversary events. However, the latest detention also took place after church member Chen Yan decided to file a lawsuit against the authorities for unlawful harassment and surveillance against her and her husband Xiao Luobiao for more than a year. Last week, she detailed her experience with the security officials and her intention to sue in a series of blog posts published online.

Source: ICC press release dated 4-13-2020.

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