Chinese officials buckled under international pressure and reportedly apologized and returned all confiscated items to two house church pastors in an east coast province in China on Friday.
The Public Security Bureau (PSB) in Kunshan, Jiangsu Province, told Pastors Cui Chengnan and Liu Riguo that international pressure and the fear of negative impact on foreign investment in the area have caused them to return the items, according to China Aid Association (CAA), whose report has been credited for sparking the pressure.
Officials also reportedly apologize to the church privately and even pledged to reimburse the cost of the church pew and offering box damaged during the PSB raid.
"This is certainly a welcoming first step in the right direction," said Bob Fu, president of CAA, in a statement.
The two house churches were raided separately by the Kunshan Municipal Public Security Bureau on Apr. 29 when the officials declared their meetings as "illegal assemblies" and confiscated their notebook computers, projectors, DVD players, stereo, microphones, Bibles and other items. They also took away the church offering boxes.
In response, the two house church pastors filed an application for administrative reconsideration to the Kunshan Municipal People's Government on May 9 and demanded that they rule against the administrative measure taken by the PSB as illegal. The pastors also demanded that the PSB return all the confiscated items and donated money from the raid to the church.
The pastors, however, decided to withdraw their legal actions after the return of the church items.
"The Chinese house church is not seeking confrontation with their government," said Fu. "The action that Jiangsu authority has taken demonstrated that reasonable approach like this could be found in its interaction with the house churches and we highly commend this approach."