Moments before he could begin an online webinar on Christianity and Chinese culture on Thursday, Chinese authorities summoned Ran Yunfei to a police station, International Christian Concern reported.
Police detained Ran at the station until 11 p.m., leaving the webinar to play a recorded video. It would have been the second in a series of three lectures he planned to give.
“I am thankful that I have returned. I cannot share tomorrow as well. But must we share the Gospel through speaking? If you understand that being in chains is sharing the Gospel (not only with the people who talk to you, but also the many who watch you), then we should feel joyful for entering the police station multiple times,” he reportedly said in a WhatsApp message.
Ran, a prominent Chinese writer and democracy activist, became a Christian in 2015, China Christian Daily reported.
“The Chinese government is increasing the crackdown on house churches to threaten and disrupt them, in hopes that it will be too much for them," said Gina Goh, International Christian Concern’s regional manager for Southeast Asia, to The Christian Post.
Although it’s legal for a church to meet in China after it registers with the government as a “Three Self Church,” those that do so lose their freedom, Goh said. Only in house churches can Chinese Christians run the church according to Christian principles.
“If police sense the preacher is spreading anti-government thoughts, they revoke his preaching certificate. They have basically no right for Christians who speak up. There’s no religious freedom in the Three Self Church,” Goh added.
Ran was baptized by Pastor Wang Yi of the Early Rain Covenant Church, a house church. Since his conversion, he has consistently shared the Gospel, Goh said.
“His target was people who are well educated and interested in Christianity,” she said.
But police targeted him. They have canceled Ran’s lectures, stalked him at New Year dinners and arrested his friends, she continued. Other Christians in China face similar persecution as government hostility toward believers rises. Christians get pushed from their houses by landlords, police violate the privacy of their homes and as they walk into church spies count them, she said.
“We take everything for granted in a democracy, the human rights we have here. You could feel the oppression was suffocating in China,” Goh said. “In the next few coming months, it might be even harsher for Christians.”
Police knew about Ran’s lecture because they monitor streaming services, Goh said. Zoom is a Chinese company, so the authorities monitor it to stifle groups they dislike. Almost no streaming service in China is safe for Christians, she said.
Christians can best help Ran by praying for him and spreading news about his situation, Goh added.
Because of the strained diplomatic relationship between China and the United States, China treats Christians unjustly. It sees them as a threatening Western influence that could undermine the authority of the Chinese Communist Party, she said. That hostility doesn’t change the actions of Christians like Ran.
“He still continues to persist in his faith. He continues to be a witness to police,” Goh said.