On Christmas Day, police across China tear gassed and beat down Christians for worshipping at "unofficial" Christmas services, according to an American aid group in the region.
“[On Christmas] morning at about 8.00 a.m. our church was holding a Christmas activity on Binjiang Road in Langzhong city,” Li Ming, said in an interview with RFA on Monday.
“There were around 20-30 police officers, and they used tear-gas canisters,” he said. “My eyes were so swollen I couldn’t see at all.”
According to Li, police arrested three people and confiscated the group’s musical instruments and sound system.
The alleged Christmas Day oppression was not limited to one city. ChinaAid, a Texas-based group that focuses on the abuse of Christians in China, reported that 30 members of Shouwang Church in Beijing were arrested while holding outdoor worship services.
According to eyewitnesses who spoke to ChinaAid, police looked as if they “were getting ready for a big battle” as they streamed in to break up the proceedings and detain worshippers.
“[The clampdown was] very harsh yesterday,” Chen, a Shouwang church member, said, according to RFA. “They announced that 39 people were taken to the police station. There is only one young woman who hasn’t been released yet.”
Shouwang pastor Jin Tianming, told RFA that he does not know what the clampdown will mean for the future of his church, which has experienced persecution from the Chinese government in the past that caused it to permanently end outdoor services.
“We rented a venue, but the authorities are putting the landlord under pressure, and he has said he wants to terminate our contract,” Jin said. “We haven’t decided what our next step will be.”
In addition, six worshippers in a house – or unofficial – church were beaten and arrested in the coastal province of Zhejiang on Dec. 24, according to Pastor Luo Sennian.
“They threw out all the things that belong to our church,” Luo said. “I went over there to talk to them, and immediately five or six of them set about beating me.”
He added: “My son was beaten up by eight or nine people after he tried to stop them [beating me]...I had a lot of blood on my face.”
According to the Chinese government, religion is not illegal in China. Rather, it “is one of the important forces from which China draws strength.”
However, according to Slovenian philosopher, Slavoj Zizek, the Chinese government prefers religions that “sustain social stability,” like Confucianism, over Christianity, Tibetan Buddhism, and sects like Falun Gong, which try to operate independently of authorities and end up causing “social disintegration.”
Despite the Chinese government's reputation as one of the world's worst human rights violators, ChinaAid was “stunned” by its reaction on Christmas Day.
“Why is the Chinese government, the so-called 'People’s government,' so scared of Christmas?” the group said in a statement.