Christian persecution: Police CRACK DOWN on ‘illegal’ church services over Zoom
Members of the Early Rain Covenant Church (ERCC) had tuned into the online meeting held by imprisoned pastor Wang Yi on Easter Sunday to mark the most important holiday on the Christian calendar. Police raided the homes of six church leaders in the Sichuan province and arrested them as they sat and watched the sermon, according to International Christian Concern (ICC), a Washington-based charity which focuses on human rights and religious freedom.
The ERCC has in recent years suffered heavy persecution and in December 2018 its pastor was detained and all public gatherings banned.
One unnamed female member of the church told ICC: “At that time I was also in the Zoom call, but there was a long period of time where I did not hear a thing.
“I thought it’s the network connection issue at first, but I soon heard a quarrel erupt.
“Our co-worker Wang Jun was questioning some people, ‘Who are you to do this?’”
The other leaders who were arrested have been named as Guo Haigang, Wu Wuqing, Jia Xuewei, Zhang Jianqing and Zhang Xudong.
The home of one leader had its electricity cut off, while others received phone calls warning them about “police coming to visit them soon”.
All six leaders have since been released and the electricity was restored later on Sunday afternoon.
A person close to the church reported police had at first acted in a friendly manner towards church leaders before arresting them.
“Since 8.30am some security officials have entered these Christian families’ homes and pretended to be chatting with them casually,” they said.
“At 9.30am the worship began, and they were also invited to participate.
“Once they realised that the sermon was from ERCC’s imprisoned pastor Wang Yi, they immediately shut it down.”
The woman’s account of the heavy-handed clampdown was echoed by a supporter of the church who claimed to have been visited by police at his house.
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The man, known as Zhang Jiangqing, said he was issued with a stern warning against taking part in any services run by Pastor Wang.
Officers told him: “Don’t participate in already banned [religious] activities anymore.
“Don’t listen to Pastor [Wang]’s sermons anymore.
“If you do this again, we will deal with it seriously and take you away.”
The arrests came after a member of the ERCC church filed a lawsuit against the Chinese Government for unlawful harassment and surveillance.
Chen Yan claims she and her husband Xiao Luobiao have been victims of a control campaign for more than a year.
Ms Chen last week wrote about her ordeal and her intention to sue in a series of blog posts.
Gina Goh, ICC’s Regional Manager for Southeast Asia, said members of the church have faced harassment by police since the ERCC was shut down in 2018.
She said:“In a time when the Chinese people are suffering from the COVID-19 pandemic, the heartless regime chose to inflict more trouble on its citizens.
“The UN should immediately suspend China’s appointment to the Human Rights Council for its lack of respect for human rights.”
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