Police in China have arrested a Christian minister and a believer from a house church in Shanxi Province for attending a Christian conference in Malaysia last year where Pastors Tim Keller and D.A. Carson were speakers, according to a report.
An Yankui, a minister of Zion Reformed Church in Taiyuan city, and Zhang Chenghao, his co-worker at the church, have been in detention since last Sunday, the U.S.-based group China Aid reports.
The two Christians were arrested after the Sunday worship service without officials informing their family members about the detention for more than 24 hours. The detention notice was sent to the families on Nov. 22.
The notice sent to the minister’s wife, Yao Congya, by Shanxi Province Fenyang Municipal Bureau of Public Security, reads: “Per the Criminal Procedure Law of the People’s Republic of China Article 82, on November 22, 2021, our bureau criminally detained An Yankui who was suspected of illegally crossing the national border, and he is detained at Fangshan County Detention Center at present.”
In July, five other Christians from the same church had been arrested for taking part in the “KL2020 Gospel and Culture” conference hosted by Chinese-Indonesian Pastor Stephen Tong in Kuala Lumpur, the U.S.-based persecution watchdog International Christian Concern reported at the time.
Keller, a theologian and bestselling author, and Carson, emeritus professor of New Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School and co-founder of The Gospel Coalition, were among the speakers at the international conference.
The five had been arrested on suspicion that they illegally crossed the national border, and the case wasn’t pursued by authorities because they held official passports by the People’s Republic of China and entered customs legally, China Aid noted, adding that last Sunday’s arrest was made on “the same absurd charge.”
An Yankui maintained close ties with the heavily persecuted Early Rain Covenant Church and Pastor Wang Yi, and that could be the reason why he is being targeted, China Aid suggests.
Open Doors USA, which monitors persecution in over 60 countries, estimates that there are about 97 million Christians in China, a large percentage of whom worship in what China considers to be “illegal” and unregistered underground house churches.
ICC’s Regional Manager for Southeast Asia, Gina Goh, previously said: “Beijing is paranoid about Chinese Christians’ interaction with Christians overseas. As a result, they are penalizing Christians to deter them from ‘receiving foreign influence.’ It is a shame that the Chinese government constantly manipulates laws to violate the religious freedom of its citizens.”
The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom has voiced concern about measures adopted by the Chinese government this year to further tighten state control over government-sanctioned churches, including requiring full support of the Chinese Communist Party and banning religious activity by house churches.
China is ranked on Open Doors USA’s World Watch List as one of the worst countries in the world when it comes to the persecution of Christians.
The U.S. State Department has also labeled China as a “country of particular concern” for “continuing to engage in particularly severe violations of religious freedom.”
ICC documented more than 100 incidents of Christian persecution in China between July 2020 and June 2021.