Police in China violently raided a house church in Xiamen city in Fujian province during Sunday worship, injuring several worshipers in the process.
According to persecution watchdog International Christian Concern, at 9 a.m., dozens of security guards and officers from the local Ethnic and Religious Bureau interrupted Sunday morning worship at Xingguang Church in Jimei district, calling the gathering “illegal.”
Xingguang Church meets at a residence since they have refused to join the government-controlled Three-Self Patriotic Movement and is thus considered illegal by the Chinese Communist Party.
Though male church members attempted to block the door, police stormed into the room, yelling at church members while demanding them to stop recording with their cell phones.
When church members refused, police dragged several members out of the door and snatched their cell phones. In a video shared by preacher Yang Xibo from Xunsiding Church, the police can be seen pressing members’ heads down to the ground while authorities yell, “Stop filming!”
In another video shared by the Chinese Christian Fellowship of Righteousness, a church member is heard shouting, “You have entered my house, you grab our cell phones, you beat up people, you intrude violently. This is not allowed!”
Bob Fu, president of China Aid, a nonprofit organization focused on exposing human rights violations, told ICC that church member Xu Wenping suffered a chest contusion, a rib fracture, and a bruise on his arms in the scuffle, and two other men and women were also injured during the clash.
On Twitter, Fu shared a video of authorities forcibly removing a family of three from a neighboring home after they allegedly documented the church raid on their cell phones.
Six men were detained after the raid and were only released after 12 hours. Upon their release, other church members welcomed them with applause and hugs.
This is not the first time Xingguan Church has been targeted by authorities. The church was previously raided by authorities from five different departments on April 19. Additionally, the church’s preacher, Titus Yu, received an advance notice of administrative punishment for “violating several articles of the religious regulations.”
Gina Goh, ICC’s regional manager for Southeast Asia, said China has clearly resumed its crackdown on Christianity now that the threat posed by the coronavirus pandemic has reduced.
“In recent weeks, we have seen an increased number of church demolitions and cross removals on state-sanctioned churches across China, as house church gatherings continue to face interruption and harassment. It is deplorable that the local authorities not only conducted this raid without proper procedure, but deployed excessive use of force against church members and bystanders,” she said. “ICC calls on the international community and the US government to condemn China’s constant human rights abuses.”
In April, Zhao Huaiguo, the founder of Bethel Church, was arrested in China’s Hunan province for “inciting subversion of state power” after he refused to join the Three-Self Patriotic Association.
A day after his arrest, six police officers went to Bethel Church where they confiscated 480 books, including biblical materials, claiming the materials were illegal.
The U.S. State Department has considered China a country of particular concern since 1999. The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, a government body that monitors conditions abroad and U.S. responses, this year released a report recommending that the U.S. keep China among the world's worst performers in terms of religious freedom.
The group said religious freedom had “continued to deteriorate” in China, citing not just the persecution of Christians, but the 900,000 and 1.8 million Uyghurs, Kazakhs, Kyrgyzstans and other Muslims currently held in more than 1,300 concentration camps in Xinjiang.
Previously, USCIRF released a report documenting how the Chinese government uses technology — including surveillance cameras, biometric technology and artificial intelligence — to monitor and harass religious communities.
Last month, several members of the heavily persecuted Early Rain Covenant 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.
The arrests came after a member of the ERCC church filed a lawsuit against the Chinese government for unlawful harassment and surveillance.
Open Doors USA also ranks China as one of the worst countries in the world when it comes to the persecution of Christians. The country rose in the rankings from No. 27 to No 23. on Open Doors’ 2020 World Watch List report of 50 countries where it is most difficult to be a believer.
Open Doors CEO David Curry stressed that the implications lie in China’s development of surveillance to control its people.
“Its implications are not just for Christians within China but for every country and for religious freedom generally,” Curry said. “Let me put it together. It is like a puzzle. The pieces are there but it is not until you put it together that you see it clearly. When you see it clearly, it is frightening.”
Curry told The Christian Post that China is creating a “system of persecution for the future.”
“We have to call it out now,” he said. “Otherwise, it will be too late. Otherwise, they will sell it to Iran and others to oppress their religious minorities. That is why it needs to be really highlighted. Within five years, it would be almost too late to stop them."