(Linfen, Shanxi—October 31, 2022) Early Rain Covenant Church in Chengdu issued a public prayer letter, revealing that police arrested Wu Tingting, a co-worker of Linfen Covenant House Church (“Shengyue Jiayuan”) on October 28. The letter said that authorities detained her under suspicion of “fraud,” but her family members have not been notified in writing nor received any phone calls.
Since the “August 19” church persecution, Li Jie and Han Xiaodong, two preachers of the Linfen Covenant House Church, were first placed under residential surveillance at a designated residence and then sent to a detention center. Both were arrested on suspicion of “fraud.” The leaders and the brothers and sisters church were all under tremendous pressure to sign documents to corroborate the suspected crime. Almost everyone from the church kept from signing any statement. Some brothers and sisters were placed under severe pressure from their workplace, their family members, and relatives and were forced to write down reports stating that they were “victims” and accusing church preachers of defrauding their money. They also had to sign a pledge never to attend Linfen Covenant House Church again.
Linfen Covenant Home Church is a brother church of the Zion Reformed Church in Taiyuan, Shanxi Province. Since the church refused to join the state-sanctioned Three-Self Church, it has been persecuted since the implementation of the new regulations on religious affairs. In the fall of 2018, Preacher Li Jie participated in the signing the joint statement of Early Rain Pastor Wang Yi. Since then, Lie Jie and his congregation endure constant harassment and persecution.
On the evening of August 19, 2022, the Covenant House Church in Linfen City was attacked when it held an outdoor “Family Camp” event. One hundred police officers appeared at the campsite, took the members away overnight, and confiscated their cellphones. Only after around 2 or 3 AM were some children sent back home. The adults, on the other hand, were detained. At 3:00 in the morning, the police station sent people to search the homes of Preacher Han Xiaodong and Preacher Li Jie respectively. On August 23, the branch directly under the Public Security Bureau of Linfen City, Shanxi Province issued a “Notice of Residential Surveillance in a Designated Residence” for Preacher Li Jie, his wife Li Shanshan, and Preacher Han Xiaodong. All were charged under the “suspicion of fraud.”
On September 2, Preacher Han Xiaodong was criminally detained on suspicion of “fraud” and was held at the Yaodu District Detention Center in Shanxi Province. They next day Han’s wife, Chen Ying, received his criminal detention notice. They have three young children. Preacher Han was arrested and the burden of raising the children fell on Chen Ying alone. Li Jie and Han Xiaodong were both formally arrested for fraud on September 30.
Early Rain Covenant Church released a prayer letter on October 28 revealing the situation of Covenant House Church:
- The authorities in Linfen, Shanxi used the crime of “fraud” to frame the preachers of the church, trying to redefine tithing to the church as “defrauding” the congregation from a legal point of view. The church is facing the most dangerous round of persecution in recent decades.
- The actions taken by the authorities in Linfen, Shanxi show that the crackdown is first directed at the preachers. If the persecution of the Covenant House Church by the Linfen authorities proceeded smoothly, it would mean that all preachers of house churches in China would be charged with “fraud” (we noticed that the previous “March 16 Ren’ai Reformed Church Case” in Guiyang City, Guizhou Province, and the “November 17 Qingcaodi Church Case” in Deyang City, Sichuan Province also used “suspicion of fraud” as the charge). Not only that, all the brothers and sisters will also face a trial of conscience – there is no doubt that no matter how much pressure you face, writing down false reports and accusations according to the authorities’ intentions is a betrayal to the church and an act of apostasy. Many brothers and sisters were simply not prepared to take on such intense pressure, these “life-or-death decisions.”
- This round of persecution has not yet appeared in the form of forcing members to deny Christ. But we see that church members are asked to betray the church and the church leaders. We also see the distortion and perjury of the church’s most basic religious practice (tithing) are obvious. These actions are also a form of denying Christ. When all these things are “quietly” happening around us, the most dangerous moment for Chinese house churches is imminent!
- Pray for Sister Wu Tingting of the Covenant House Church, and ask the Lord to keep her standing firmly by the grace of the Lord and not to sign any documents that betray the Lord and her faith;
- Pray for Preacher Li Jie and Preacher Han Xiaodong of Covenant House Church, presently detained. We ask the Lord to give them confidence and strength to continue relying on the Lord and not compromise on their beliefs while they are isolated from the community;
- Pray for all the leaders of the church and the brothers and sisters of the Covenant House Church. We ask the Lord to use His mercy to restore those brothers and sisters who have signed reports and pledges under intimidation and threats, to comfort them, and to make them come back to God and the church. Those who truly repent in front of the members will also receive peace of forgiveness of sins; ask the Lord to stop the breach in the church; ask the Lord to grant grace to protect those brothers and sisters who are still able to stand firm, so that they can rely on the Lord more deeply. We also pray for their safety, that they will not fall into the sin of betraying their friends;
- Pray for the preachers, church leaders, brothers, and sisters of all the house churches in China. We ask the Lord to give us a vigilant heart. So that when trials come, we should not rely on ourselves, but entrust ourselves to the faithful Savior Lord. He will deliver us from the wiles of men and the snares of the devil.
~Yu Bing, Special Correspondent of ChinaAid