Photo: Guangzhou Bible Reformed Church raided during Sunday service (ChinaAid source)
(Guangzhou, Guangdong Province – May 7, 2023) Yesterday morning, authorities raided five locations of Guangzhou Bible Reformed Church simultaneously. Church elders, preachers, and co-workers were taken away. Police attempted to detain Pastor Huang Xiaoning, but he rejected their illegal action.
Police officers and other staff suddenly broke into each location, interrupting Sunday services. Pastor Huang Xiaoning was preaching in the Yuexiu branch when the police arrived. They asked him and other believers to stop worship.
An illegal intrusion
Pastor Huang responded, “We leased this venue for Sunday Service. You have no right to break into this place. Your power should be confined by the rule of law.”
The staff of the local Religious Affairs Bureau held a copy of the Regulation on Religious Affairs: “I am enforcing the law. I have the right to inspect this place. This is joint law enforcement with the Public Security Bureau.” Pastor Huang referenced Articles 37 and 38 of the Constitution of the People’s Republic of China and pointed out it was an unlawful intrusion.
Photo: There were more police than believers in the crowded venue (ChinaAid source)
Believers video-recorded the officials with their cphoneshone. Some police tried to block their phone cameras, while others told believers they were not allowed to film. Churchgoers said the purpose of the videos was for law enforcement oversight. Officers then allowed them to record.
China’s “Freedom” of Religion
Pastor Huang Xiaoning pointed out that according to Article 36 of the Constitution of the People’s Republic of China, “Citizens of the People’s Republic of China enjoy the freedom of religious belief.” Therefore, the Religious Affairs regulations violated the Constitution. Lin of the Religious Affairs Bureau refuted Pastor Huang. “The Constitution ruled that citizens enjoy the freedom of religious belief but did not rule that those citizens enjoy the freedom of religious activities.”
Christians asked to leave
Lin and Pastor Huang continued debating the law regarding religious freedom in China. Officials tried to force believers to leave the service. “All of you must leave immediately. Stop the gathering,” Lin reportedly said.
Pastor Huang Xiaoning debates with authorities (ChinaAid source)
Interfering with religious beliefs
A believer challenged the police. “Why don’t you go after criminals?” he asked, “Why do you go after us? We are all law-abiding citizens.” A Religious Affairs Bureau official said: “We don’t interfere with your religious beliefs.” The believer responded, “You are interfering with our religious beliefs right now.”
Landlord asks the church to leave
The landlord for the venue was not sure if the church broke any laws, but they did not feel comfortable with the church staying. Pastor Huang respected the landlord’s decision. He paid for the hour they used the venue and asked for a refund for the previously agreed four hours.
Believers left the venue after police recorded everyone’s information. Authorities took some elders, preachers, and co-workers to the police station for interrogation. Most of them were released by midafternoon and early evening.
Photo: The raided venue (ChinaAid source)
Targets for persecution
Guangzhou Bible Reformed Church refused to join China’s Three-Self Church. As a result, the Religious Affairs Bureau and national security agents banned the church in July 2018. They lost their church building, but they did not stop meeting. Every week they changed venues, holding Sunday services at different restaurants. Although the church suffered persecution, the number of believers increased.
Guangzhou Bible Reformed Church sent out a prayer request letter and asked fellow Christians to pray for God to protect the church and continue to use the church to glorify and testify for God.
~Yu Bing, ChinaAid Special Reporter