Thirteen Christians were detained and taken to a police station in China's Guangdong province earlier this month after authorities raided their Sunday morning worship service.
According to nongovernmental Christian nonprofit organization China Aid, a team of police officers and officials from a government religious affairs bureau raided the Qingcaodi Church, a small house church in Jingmen, on Nov. 5.
China Aid, which provides legal support to persecuted Chinese Christians and helps expose the abuses of the communist government, reported that officers confiscated Bibles and other church-owned materials before they detained 13 worshipers and transported them to a police station in Xincheng, where their information was taken and they were questioned.
Zhai Lili, a Christian woman who provided the church with the home venue, was given an administrative detention sentence. According to China Aid's report from last Friday, Lili had not yet been released.
A local source told China Aid that the details about Lili's detention are unknown within the Christian community.
As noted by China Aid, the situation involving Qingcaodi Church represents the second time in a one-week span that authorities in the town have detained members of the Christian community.
Previously, Pastor Li of Wanahua Fengle Church had his home raided and was forced to go down to the station for four hours of questioning. During the raid, the authorities confiscated Bibles and Christian poetry from the home.
The detainment of Christians at Qungcaodi Church and Wanahua Fengle Church is far from the first time that government officials in China have arrested house church participants, as hundreds of Christians have been detained for worshiping in house churches in the last few years.
Exclusive Op-eds from the Presidential Campaigns
China currently ranks as one of the top 50 worst countries in the world when it comes to Christian persecution, according to Open Doors USA's World Watch List.
Last week, it was reported that Christians in an impoverished region of Southeast China have been told to replace pictures of Jesus with pictures of Communist Party Chairman Xi Jinping in order to receive government assistance.
The U.S. State Department called out China for its restriction of religious freedom in the agency's annual report on international religious freedom, released earlier this year. China has also been designated by the State Department as a "country of particular concern " — a designation given to countries that engaged in or tolerate "systematic, ongoing and egregious violations of religious freedom."
"The People's Republic of China's constitution states citizens have freedom of religious belief but limits protections for religious practice to 'normal religious activities' and does not define 'normal.' The government continued to exercise control over religion and restrict the activities and personal freedom of religious adherents when these were perceived to threaten state or Chinese Communist Party (CCP) interests, according to nongovernmental organization (NGO) and international media reports," the State Department report reads. "Only religious groups belonging to one of the five state-sanctioned 'patriotic religious associations' (Buddhist, Taoist, Muslim, Catholic, and Protestant) were permitted to register with the government and officially permitted to hold worship services."
In August, a Chinese government spokeswoman condemned the State Department report and stated that the U.S. should focus on its own racial issues instead of China's religious freedom abuses.