|Police raid Sunday service at Xuncheng Church in November 2020.
(Photo: ChinaAid resource)
(Taiyuan City, Shanxi Province —July 30, 2021) On the morning of July 28, police criminally arrested five coworkers of Taiyuan Xuncheng/Zion [Xuncheng means Zion] on a suspected charge of “illegally crossing the border.” The group of Fenyang campus coworkers of Xuncheng Reformed Church in Taiyuan City had traveled abroad to attend “the Gospel and Culture Conference 2020.” Pastor Stephen Tong Tjong Eng had organized the evangelical conference held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia last year.
On July 13, 2021, Chinese Communist Party (CCP) authorities sentenced Zhang Ligong, a coworker of the church, to a 15-day detention because of his faith. On July 28, two coworkers of the Fenyang campus traveled to the detention center to pick up Brother Zhang. At the detention center, however, police arrested the two coworkers.
CCP authorities simultaneously seized two other coworkers at their homes. From January 28 to 31, 2020, when the five coworkers traveled to Malaysia and attended the “Gospel and Culture Conference 2020), they all held a passport the PRC had issued and cleared customs without any problems. Now, however, CCP officials consider attending this conference a new crime.
When An Yankui, minister of Xuncheng Reformed Church, learned that police had arrested the five coworkers, he sent out an urgent prayer letter, asking Brothers and Sisters of each church to immediately intercede for them; to follow this event. Minister An prayed:
May the Lord not abandon his childrenand grant grace and mercy to his Churchon the path of the cross.
Prior to this law becoming effective, State security officers spoke to ministers across the country, warning them not to connect with overseas religious individuals or groups. This spring, State security officers visited one minister living in the rural area of Linyi, Shandong Province. Police also spoke to him because he received books that friends from a WeChat group had given him. When State security officers searched this minister’s cell phone, they checked his WeChat groups. After they found that he joined the group of “helping rural ministers read,” security officers told him that he should leave the group and delete the app/social media. They directed him not to receive any books from the group. CCP authorities reason that the group includes people living abroad and that these people comprise part of the overseas force.
In addition during the spring, due to references to the online “Gospel and Culture Conference 2020,” the Bureau of Ethnic and Religious Affairs, Community, State Security officers, and police harassed ministers residing in other regions. The CCP representatives visited the ministers’ places [homes and churches], spoke to them, checked their IDs, and warned them not to continue to contact overseas individuals and groups [forces].
Because he has repeatedly chastised the State’s crackdown on religions, as well as encouraged persecuted Chinese churches and Christians, CCP authorities regard Pastor Tong as a threatening overseas force. This year, State officials have even targeted those who attended the gospel conference. They have also removed the official WeChat account of Pastor Tong’s team and deleted his sermon videos.
~Yu Bing, ChinaAid Special Reporter