Two preachers from the heavily persecuted Zion Church in Beijing were forcibly taken from their homes and are being held in detention for interrogations after authorities with China’s Communist Party forced the church to shut down over three years ago.
Persecution watchdog group International Christian Concern reports that, according to urgent prayer requests sent out by the now-disbanded house church, police apprehended preacher Qie Jiafu at his home in Changping district at 11:30 p.m. on April 28 for interrogations.
Qie’s wife received only one phone call from the police two days later, informing her that Qie was placed under 10-day administrative detention for violating Article 54 of the Regulations on Administrative Penalties for Public Security. He was also fined $77 (500 Yuan).
Preacher Huang Chunzi was reportedly detained at the same time, but her apprehension was only discovered three days later. Church members last heard from her on April 28, when she notified them that authorities were at her door. She soon went missing.
After being detained for more than 72 hours, authorities have yet to notify her only contactable family member and have refused to reveal the why, when, and where of her detention.
ICC said the church is asking for prayers so that Huang will be given “all the strength she needs from the Lord, and that the Lord will make way so the church can gain current updates.” They also pray for “sufficient grace for Preacher Qie and the many servants who are paying the price for Christ in this day and age.”
Zion Church, established in 2007, used to be the largest unofficial Protestant church in Beijing, reportedly drawing 1,500 congregants every Sunday. In September 2018, city authorities forced the church to shut down and confiscated “illegal promotional materials.”
The Beijing Chaoyang district civil affairs bureau reportedly said that by organizing events without registering, the church was breaking rules forbidding mass gatherings and was “legally banned” and its “illegal promotional material” had been confiscated.
Despite the church's closure, members have faced continued harassment and persecution at the hands of authorities.
Zion Church Pastor Ezra Jin Mingri has been banned from leaving the country for nearly three years, and his daughter, Grace Jin, was unable to register for law school in the United States in July 2019 due to travel restrictions placed on her by authorities.
Gina Goh, ICC’s regional manager for Southeast Asia, said that the arbitrary arrests of the two Zion Church preachers indicate Beijing’s intention to root out house churches.
“Along with the ‘Administrative Measures for Religious Clergy,’ which came into effect on May 1, the Chinese government wants all religious leaders to submit to the Chinese Communist Party’s leadership and its ideology. Those who do not will face persecution. The ongoing crackdown against Christianity in China deserves the world’s attention,” Goh said.
Officially, China’s constitution guarantees religious freedom. However, since President Xi Jinping took office in 2013, the ruling Chinese Communist Party has tightened restrictions on religions seen as a challenge to its authority.
Churches are being monitored and closed down across the country, whether they are underground or part of the Three-Self Patriotic Movement, the officially sanctioned Protestant church in China. The government has also used high-tech surveillance to oppress and monitor believers.
Other crackdowns on Christians have involved ordering Christians to renounce their faith and replace displays of Jesus with portraits of Chairman Mao and President Xi Jinping, as well as the ongoing demolition of churches.
Last week, it was reported that CCP authorities removed Bible Apps from the App Store in China, and Bibles in hard copy are no longer available for sale online either. In China, Bible Apps can only be downloaded with the use of a VPN.
Pastor Bob Fu, founder and president of China Aid that provides legal aid to Christians in China, wrote on Twitter: "On Wednesday official WeChat public accounts aimed at providing resources on Bible & guides on edifying the church to Chinese Christians were suddenly suspended. #CCP suspends Old Gospel &The Gospel Coalition. Both have a large number of readers within China's pastoral network."
Open Doors ranks China at No. 17 on its World Watch List of 50 countries where Christians are most persecuted.
The communist regime’s crackdown on religious freedom has also led the U.S. State Department to label it as a “country of particular concern” for “continuing to engage in particularly severe violations of religious freedom.”