Officials in China’s Taiyuan city raided a house church, confiscated Christian books, and detained the preacher and five members during a Bible study, according to a report.
Nearly 40 officials descended on the home of An Yankui, the preacher of Xuncheng Church in the capital of Shanxi province, on Wednesday evening, about one-and-a-half months after a separate raid on his home, according to the U.S.-based persecution watchdog International Christian Concern.
The officials restricted the movement of the church members who were studying the Bible, confiscated the choir robes and books, and apprehended the preacher and five women, ICC said.
The officials didn’t detain An’s wife, Yao Conya, as she had to take care of their children.
The officials released the five female detainees around midnight on New Year’s Eve, but An is being held in administrative detention for 15 days.
The heavily persecuted Early Rain Covenant Church in Chengdu planted the Xuncheng Church.
Xuncheng, which is being targeted possibly due to its association with the ERCC, was earlier raided on Nov. 15 and received a disbandment notice from the police.
China has more than 60 million Christians, at least half of whom worship in unregistered or “illegal” underground churches. China is ranked as one of the worst countries in the world when it comes to the persecution of Christians, according to Open Doors USA’s World Watch List.
Gina Goh, ICC’s regional manager for Southeast Asia, previously said that at a time when religion in China has to submit itself to the control of the Chinese Communist Party and President Xi Jinping, it’s “no longer a surprise that a house church is seen as an enemy of the state and clamped down upon.”
“China’s blindness to its violation of religious freedom needs to be continuously exposed so that Beijing knows it cannot get away with performing these evil acts,” Goh said.
Earlier, China Aid reported that Li Chunze, the leader of a house church in Panlong District in the city of Kunming, was detained from Nov. 16 to Nov. 21 after Changqing police raided his house and accused the fellowship he attended of disturbing the order of public places.
“The staff from the district religious affairs bureau said that it is illegal for believers to participate in religious activities at a venue not approved by the government,” a local believer was quoted as saying.
Researchers found that China continues to have “the highest score on the Government Restrictions Index out of all 198 countries and territories in the study.”