|A plainclothes official videotapes
Zhongfu Wanmin Church.
(Photo: China Aid)
Reported in Chinese by Qiao Nong. Translated by Carolyn Song. Written in English by Brynne Lawrence.
(Dongguan, Guangdong—June 23, 2016) Authorities from several different government departments have raided a house church in China’s southern Guangdong province seven times since May 1.
Zhongfu Wanmin Church, located in Dongguan, has been the focus of a concerted persecution effort by authorities over the past two months. Over the course of seven separate raids, the church has had their donations stolen, members accused of illegal activities and have been pressured to register with China’s government-sanctioned Protestant church, the Three-Self Patriotic Movement (TSPM).
On May 29, the local religious affairs and public security bureaus dispatched officers to Zhongfu Wanmin Church, interrupting 30 Christians who were gathered there to pray. They pulled the pastor’s wife, Huang Xiaorui, from the pulpit, accused the church members of illegally gathering and pressured them to join the TSPM. Additionally, officers pried open the church’s donation boxes, confiscated 2,888 Yuan (U.S. $439), ordered church members not to take any pictures or video footage of the event and intimidated some of the women until they cried.
In a subsequent administrative penalty notice, issued later that day, the authorities classified the donation money as “illegal income,” since it was used for unregistered religious activities. The notice allowed the church three days to file a complaint against the government’s actions, but they didn’t receive it until the day of the deadline, June 1.
Officials raided another of the church’s buildings on June 3. Huang said that the church usually meets in the building on Friday nights but had decided to meet in the home of a Christian on the night of the raid. As a result, the building was locked, and no one was there.
Two days later, a group of officials arrived at the church again and photographed the building and Christians at the service. These officers refused to show identification.
During the most recent raid on June 12, more officials came to the church. According to Huang: “They came while I was leading worship on the stage. There were about seven or eight of them, as well as some plainclothes police officers, all sitting below me. I could not quite hear their conversation, since I didn’t come down from the stage. I asked for their identification after I finished, but none of them gave it to me. Today, it didn’t seem as if they sat there for as long as the last time, and they took fewer pictures and did not videotape. I asked them which department they are from, and they just said they were from ‘a government department.’ I said, ‘The government has very many departments; how am I supposed to know which department you are from?’ They just said they were from an affairs bureau.”
This spring’s raids have been part of a long series of government action against the church. Officials began targeting the church on Aug. 23, 2015, when plainclothes officers from the public security bureau and religious affairs bureau interrupted a church service and produced a notice from the Dongguan Municipal Religious Affairs Bureau that accused church members of collectively conducting illegal religious activities and ordered them to stop.
Huang said that the church repeatedly sued the religious affairs bureau, demanding that the notice be revoked. After the court repeatedly upheld the original ruling, police told the church members that they shouldn’t believe the teachings of the pastor, Li Peng, because he had lost the case and encouraged them to instead join the TSPM.
China Aid exposes abuses, such as those suffered by the members of Zhongfu Wanmin Church, in order to promote religious freedom and rule of law in China.