China continues to persecute Early Rain Covenant Church, orders members to cease online services

Early Rain Covenant Church in China | Photo: Facebook/Early Rain Covenant Church

China’s communist government has continued to monitor and persecute Sichuan province’s Early Rain Covenant Church, demanding church members cease all online worship services.

Over two years after shuttering the 5,000-member church, breaking down the doors of church members’ and leaders’ homes and arresting more than 100 people, police have continued to harass ERCC members, according to a new report from China Aid. 

A Christian, who did not reveal her name, told the persecution watchdog that over the weekend, police brought in ERCC members in charge of church activities and online services and demanded that they stop all activities.

Among those brought in to the police station was Ran Yunfei, who had originally been scheduled to give a testimony during a church service Friday. Ran was escorted home only after the service ended.

Because police only summoned Christians during the church’s online services, the source who informed China Aid believes police are still monitoring the church.

In April, several members of the church were arrested by the Public Security Bureau for participating in an online Easter worship service on Zoom and ordered to cease all religious activity.

A supporter of ERCC 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 corroborated by church leader 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!”

ERCC, led by pastor Wang Yi, has not been able to gather in person since the communist regime shut down the church in 2018 and arrested their pastor and other leaders. Pastor Wang was later sentenced to nine years in prison on charges of subversion of power and illegal business operations.

Church members have continued to face harassment from authorities, even amid the country’s coronavirus outbreak.

According to International Christian Concern, Pastor Wang’s son, Shuya Wang, celebrated his 13th birthday on March 9 without his father. Forced to attend a public school since last year, he has been escorted in a police car each day. During the coronavirus pandemic, with schools closed, Shuya and his mother are reportedly still being monitored by police.

Open Doors USA’s World Watch List ranks China as one of the worst countries in the world when it comes to the persecution of Christians. The organization notes that all churches are perceived as a threat if they become too large, too political or invite foreign guests.

In addition to Early Rain Covenant Church, the Chinese Communist Party has shuttered a number of well-known churches, including Rongguili Church in Guangzhou and Xunsiding Church in Xiamen.

China has also been labeled by the U.S. State Department as a “country of particular concern” for “continuing to engage in particularly severe violations of religious freedom.”

In its annual report released last week, the United States Commission for International Religious Freedom called the country “the world’s foremost violator of human rights and religious freedom.” The report cited the Chinese government’s harassment of human rights advocates outside its border as well as the CCP’s continued persecution of Christians, Muslim-majority Uighurs, and other ethnic minorities.

Addressing the report, commissioner Johnnie Moore said that while China has the “capability of being a nation we can all admire,” the CCP has “chosen to violate inherent human rights ... any chance they can.”

“Enough is enough,” he stressed. “And we've said enough is enough.”

Moore warned that China is “exporting their intolerance around the world. “The light is blinking red, and it’s time for the Chinese government to take a different path.”

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