Several Chinese Christians who fought back against Communist Party officials who ordered churches in Zhejiang Province to install security cameras, which believers fear will be used to monitor their activities, are now being treated for their injuries at a local hospital.
South China Morning Post reported on Monday that the government ordered the installation of the surveillance equipment at churches for "anti-terrorism and security purposes."
Believers in the city of Wenzhou, however, who are said to number close to 1 million, see it as part of the Communist Party's continued crackdown on Christianity, along with the ongoing campaign to remove crosses from church rooftops.
"Government officials came to the churches and put up cameras by force. Some pastors and worshipers who didn't agree to the move were dragged away," one Christian in Wenzhou shared with the publication.
"Some people needed to be treated in hospital after fighting the officials."
Pastor Yan Xiaojie directly linked the order to install the camera with the cross demolitions campaign, which began in 2014.
China Aid, which has been reporting on the government's targeting, imprisoning, and persecution of Christians in China over the past several years, said that officials are closely monitoring how churches respond to the new orders.
The watchdog group said the government also sent an increasing number of agents to churches that resisted the cross removal campaign.
"A local Christian said the church members questioned why they needed additional surveillance since Three-Self Churches are already heavily monitored and policed by the government," China Aid said.
"Some Christian women stationed themselves outside the church, fearing a possible church demolition, and were seized for their resistance, then released once the cameras were set up. Officials also destroyed the church's reception desk and other parts of the building, including the church's gate in order to get in."
Shengai Church in Pingyang County, Wenzhou, is one of the churches that has reportedly stood up to the orders to install the cameras, arguing that the government is violating privacy and disrupting the internal affairs of religious organizations.
The church has further said that despite the government's insistence that the cameras are part of anti-terrorism efforts, there is no legal basis for the actions, and that without the church's permission to install surveillance equipment, it would constitute abuse of power.
China Aid added in its annual report in January on the state of religious freedom in China that the government has engaged in activities to force all religions to "surrender to the authority and leadership of the Chinese Community Party."
"[W]e have good reasons to worry that the major religions in China, especially house churches and underground Catholic and Protestant churches, will suffer the most unprecedented suppression under the name of the 'transforming into the Communist Party of China' since the Cultural Revolution," the group warned at the time.