Police officers and Chinese Communist Party officials raided a church in Guangdong Province, which advocates for justice in China, while its pastor and elder were leading an online worship service on Zoom, forcing the two to stop preaching.
Security agents, police officers and other officials surrounded the Shenzhen Trinity Gospel Harvest Church in Shenzhen city and forced Pastor Mao Zhibin and Elder Chu Yanqing to stop preaching, the U.S.-based group China Aid reported.
The incident took place earlier on July 11, about three months after a church member, Shi Minglei, also known as Hope, fled to the United States. Hope was also attending the online service that was raided.
Pastor Mao and elder Shen Ling also recently signed “A Joint Statement by Pastors: A Declaration for the Sake of the Christian Faith,” led by Pastor Wang Yi of the heavily persecuted Early Rain Covenant Church.
In April, several members of Early Rain Covenant Church were arrested for participating in an Easter worship service on Zoom and ordered to cease all religious activity.
Persecution watchdog group International Christian Concern reported at the time that the Christians were participating in a Zoom worship service from their homes on Easter Sunday when six leaders were arrested and detained by the Public Security Bureau.
The 5,000-member Sichuan house church 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. Since then, it has opted to gather online.
“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,” a member of ERCC was quoted as saying. “I thought it’s the network connection issue at first, but I soon heard a quarrel erupt. Our co-worker Wang Jun was questioning some people, [saying], ‘Who are you to do this [to us]?’”
Open Doors USA, which monitors persecution in over 60 countries, estimates that there are about 97 million Christians in China, a large percentage of whom worship in what China considers to be “illegal” and unregistered underground house churches.
Authorities in China are also continuing their crackdown on Christianity by removing Bible Apps and Christian WeChat public accounts as new highly restrictive administrative measures on religious staff went into effect this year.
China is ranked on Open Doors USA’s World Watch List as one of the worst countries in the world when it comes to the persecution of Christians.
The country 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.”
Authorities in China are also continuing their crackdown on Christianity by removing Bible apps and Christian WeChat public accounts as new highly restrictive administrative measures on religious staff went into effect this year.