A local pastor in the Chinese city of Wuhan, the origin of the novel coronavirus, was taken away by police for interrogation while he was leading an online meeting of Christians on evangelism and church planting, according to the Chinese Christian Fellowship of Righteousness.
The Zoom meeting, “Proclaim Jesus Gospel Gathering,” was underway when the police in Hubei province’s Wuhan city came over, looked for evangelism materials or publications, and took away the pastor, identified only as Luo, from Nanjing Road Church, the U.S.-based Christian persecution watchdog International Christian Concern learned from the Chinese Christian Fellowship of Righteousness, which speaks out in public as Christians.
Pastor Luo was taken to a police station and interrogated for more than four hours.
Not afraid, Luo told the police that Christians served the city during Wuhan’s most difficult moments, leaving policemen speechless.
“I rebuke them, calling them out that they are not minding business that they should be minding,” Luo was quoted as saying. “Christians disregarded their own lives to do good things, yet the police treat them as the bad guys, this is unreasonable.
“I also told them a few times in all seriousness, I will only live for Christ, I will not argue on other matters. However, I will never change [my persistence] about evangelism.”
The officials then let the pastor go.
Earlier this month, police violently raided a house church in Xiamen city in China’s Fujian province during Sunday worship, injuring several worshipers in the process.
Dozens of security guards and officers from the local Ethnic and Religious Bureau arrived at Xingguang Church, which meets at a residence, calling the gathering “illegal.”
All the churches outside of the government-controlled Three-Self Patriotic Movement are 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 the door and snatched their cell phones. In a video shared by preacher Yang Xibo from Xunsiding Church, the police could be seen pressing church members’ heads down to the ground while authorities yelled, “Stop filming!”
The church was previously raided by authorities from five different departments on April 19. Additionally, the church’s preacher, Titus Yu, received advance notice of administrative punishment for “violating several articles of the religious regulations.”
Last month, several members of China’s heavily persecuted Early Rain Covenant Church were arrested for participating in an online Easter worship service on Zoom and ordered to cease all religious activity.
The 5,000-member Sichuan house church, led by pastor Wang Yi, had not been able to gather in person since the communist regime shut down the church in 2018 and arrested their pastor and other leaders. Since then, it had opted to gather online.
Early Rain Covenant Church was first raided during a Sunday evening service in December 2018 after authorities claimed it violated religious regulations because it was not registered with the government. Wang was detained along with his wife, Jiang Rong, and more than 100 members of his congregation.
Pastor Wang was later sentenced to nine years in prison on charges of subversion of power and illegal business operations.
According to Gina Goh, ICC’s regional manager for Southeast Asia, China has clearly resumed its crackdown on Christianity after 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 U.S. government to condemn China’s constant human rights abuses.”