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China releases Early Rain house church member after 12 days in jail

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Early Rain Covenant Church in China |

China’s Early Rain Covenant Church says one of its members, who was arrested in a raid during a recent worship service and suffered while in detention due to his medical condition, has been released on bail and had a celebratory dinner with his family.

Xing Hongwei, who was arrested on Aug. 14 after more than 20 police officers in uniform and plainclothes from the Wuhou district raided the Chengdu-based ERCC while its members were holding worship at a tea shop, was released on bail pending his trial last Friday, the U.S.-based persecution watchdog International Christian Concern said.

The heavily persecuted ERCC announced Xing’s release in a prayer request update, saying the house church’s members accompanied his wife, Zhao Qing, to the Jinhuaqiao Police Station to bring him home. There, he celebrated his release with dinner with his family.

During the 12 days of detention, Xing suffered physically due to his post-meningitis recovery. Still, his faith in God became firmer during that time, the church said, adding that he also jokingly said that he successfully went on a diet, which he could not have achieved if “outside.”

Xing expressed his gratitude for the concern his church and friends had for him during his detention and for the legal defense provided by his lawyers.

During the raid, the church members, about 60 in number, were locked inside the building and released only after they provided their identification. Xing was arrested because he refused to comply with authorities’ demands.

The police said ERCC was ordered to disband and the gathering was illegal.

Open Doors USA, which monitors the persecution of Christians in over 60 countries, estimates that China has more than 97 million Christians, many of whom worship in unregistered or “illegal” underground churches.

The five state-sanctioned religious groups in China are the Buddhist Association of China, the Chinese Taoist Association, the Islamic Association of China, the Protestant Three-Self Patriotic Movement and the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association.

“China’s ongoing crackdown against ERCC is the prime example of how Beijing continues to disregard religious freedom for its people even if the Constitution guarantees this right,” said Gina Goh, ICC’s regional manager for Southeast Asia, at the time.

“Since the incarceration of ERCC Pastor Wang Yi and elder Qing Derfu in 2018, the government has not ceased its harassment and persecution of the house church. The government’s goal is to see all house churches go extinct so they can fully control Christianity in China.”

Even the organizations affiliated with the five authorized religions can be subject to surveillance and limitations.

ICC documented more than 100 incidents of Christian persecution in China between July 2020 and June 2021 as the country’s communist regime sought to forcefully convert independent religious groups into mechanisms of the Chinese Communist Party.

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