Another underground church in China was raided this week by government authorities who arrested worshiping Christians as the country's Communist crackdown continues, China Aid reports.
The Christian persecution watchdog group, which seeks to expose religious freedom abuses in China, reports that Morningstar Church in China’s southern Guangxi province was raided on Wednesday morning.
Many Christians present, including the church’s leaders, were said to have been detained by authorities.
No update on the situation was available by press time. But as of early morning Thursday, none of the arrested Christians had been released, according to China Aid.
The closing of Morningstar Church comes as Chinese authorities continue to crack down on underground houses of worship that are not affiliated with state-run church organizations.
Shouwang Church, a popular house church in Beijing, said to be attended by over 1,000 people, was shut down in March after officials raided Bible classes at two different locations, changed the locks and told the congregants not to worship together again.
Last year, authorities closed down Early Rain Covenant Church in Chengdu, arrested its pastor Wang Yi and 160 church members.
As the church is attended by thousands, Early Rain Covenant members were also arrested earlier this year as they continued to meet for worship.
Earlier this month, authorities released Jiang Rong, wife of pastor Wang Yi, after six months in incarceration. She was able to reunite with the couple’s 11-year-old son.
Wang remains in “secret detention” with other members of the church. Wang and his wife have reportedly been accused of subverting state powers, a charge that can be punishable by up to 10 years in prison.
Ahead of Easter this year, authorities arrested an underground Catholic priest named Paul Zhang Guangjun from the Catholic Diocese of Xuanhua. Zhang refused to join the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association.
On Palm Sunday, Chinese authorities forced another Catholic priest who refused to join the Patriotic Association to relocate back to his hometown.
China ranks as the 27th worst nation in the world when it comes to Christian persecution, according to Open Doors USA’s World Watch List. Open Doors has expressed concern that the religious affairs in China now “lies with the Communist Party.”
“Since the Communist Party took over, the implementation of the regulations on religion, the treatment of religious groups, especially Christians, became much harsher across the country,” Open Doors USA's fact sheet reads.
“Crackdowns against Christians happen countrywide and in both state-approved and non-registered churches. The youth are increasingly being removed from church life; worship is monitored via CCTV and spies; and teachers and medical workers are told they are not allowed to have any religious affiliation.”
This month, the religious liberty magazine Bitter Winter reported that state-recognized churches in the Eastern province of Shandong received an order from the Religious Affairs Bureau requiring that traditional hymns sung during services be replaced with hymns that praise the beauty and greatness of the Chinese state.
At last week’s rollout of the State Department's report on international religious freedom for 2018, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo declared that “the Chinese Communist Party has exhibited extreme hostility to all religious faiths since its founding.”
“The party demands that it alone be called God,” Pompeo said.
The U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom, Sam Brownback, said at the news conference last week that China will not win its “war on faith.”
“This will have consequences on your standing at home and around the world,” he stressed.
In addition to Christians, Chinese government officials have also persecuted Fulan Gong practitioners, Tibetan Buddhists and Uighur Muslims.
The annual report estimates that between 800,000 to possibly over 2 million Uighur Muslims, ethnic Kazakhs, and members of other Muslims groups in the Xinjiang province have been imprisoned in detention camps.
“We share reports that others make that Chinese authorities have subjected prisoners of conscience, including Fulan Gong, Uighurs, Tibetan Buddhists, and underground Christians to forcible organ harvesting,” Brownback added. “This should shock everyone’s consciences.”