Radio Free Asia: Twenty Police Break Up Beijing House Church Meeting, Destroy Venue, Confiscate Bibles, Etc.

Translated by China Aid Association

Radio Free Asia

(Shunyi District, Beijing—Oct. 14, 2013) The meeting site of a Christian house church in Shunyi District, Beijing, was raided on Sunday for being an “illegal gathering.” More than 20 people, including police officers, religious affairs officials and [civil] joint defense team members burst into a meeting of 25 believers, breaking up the meeting, destroying installations in the room, and removing four or five cases of Bibles. According to the believers, at least three house church meetings in the local area were raided by police. When this radio station contacted the local police and religious affairs officials on Monday, they told us that, due to security concerns, believers are not allowed to meet in private. Also, Beijing’s Chenguang Bookstore, which mainly sells religious literature, was subjected to multiple inspections from different [government] departments around [the] October 1 [National Day holiday], and could be shut down.

On Sunday morning, a meeting of Christians from Harvest Church, [part of] the Christian Orchard Church in Ma Village, Gaoliying Town, Shunyi District, was broken up by more than 20 people from Gaoliying Police Station. Mr. He, an evangelist, told this station on Monday that the police cut short the sermon, forcibly dispersed the believers, and searched the rooms for religious items. He said: “More than 20 of them came in yesterday while we were meeting. As soon as they arrived, they starting removing computers, projector and stools from the room. Their director said that we were not welcome, and [they] took all our books, hymnals and Bibles. These past few days, we’ve been getting ready to negotiate with them and get our things back.”

Reporter: These people, which departments did they come from?
Answer: The police brought with them Domestic Security Protection officers and people from the Shunyi District Office for Religious Affairs, they all came together [acting] like law enforcement. There were also people from the town’s Section for Religious Affairs as well as some members of joint defense team.

He said these people didn’t show identification. “At the time, there were 25 of us. One of our sisters was called outside where they talked with her for a while and then let her go. At that time, our pastor wanted them to show a search warrant but they didn’t say anything. Those members of the joint defense team pulled out all the electric plugs in the rooms and moved out stools, making trouble so we couldn’t meet.”

Another believer, Ms. Xing, said the police officers were rude and outrageous after they entered the room, shouting “’Stay seated! Don’t move!’ [They were] like bandits, even grabbing the Bibles we were holding in our own hands. We had about four or five cases of Bibles, notebooks and hymnals that were all taken away. Then we said these books belonged to us personally, [but] they said it didn’t matter whose they were. When we tried to make a video recording of them with our cell phones, they grabbed the phones and deleted everything.”

On Monday, this radio station called Officer Wang at the police station that went to the meeting. He explained: “To meet, they must get our approval. If they want to meet, we have churches here and they can to church for sermons and Bible lessons.”

Reporter: So this wasn’t the first time they met?
Answer: No. We have been trying to persuade them for a long time, telling them many times that they should go to a regular church for worship, but they don’t listen.

House church believers hold small meetings throughout Beijing, and most of the time, the authorities don’t interfere, but Officer Wang explained that this meeting was broken up because “there was a relatively large number of people there, there were children and elderly people. If something dangerous happened, they themselves cannot be held responsible. The reason they need to get approval is because it’s a security concern.”

An official surnamed Jia from Gaoliying town’s Section for Religious Affairs told this reporter: “That was an illegal meeting. A meeting site for Christians must be reviewed and approved by [one of] our relevant departments. Those without approval are all illegal meetings.”

Reporter: Will those items be returned to them?
Answer: [They] should go to the District Bureau for Civil and Religious Affairs for the handling of that.

Ms. Xing, one of the Christians, said what the police seized was not just the church’s religious items. She said: “They didn’t give us an inventory of the items seized. Today I went to the place where the [town’s] Section for Religious Affairs has stored our [confiscated] items. They had taken away my personal bag, with my car keys in it. In their storage room, I also saw the Bibles from other churches. I asked them when they were going to return our items to us and they said we should go to and deal with the District Government Office for Civil and Religious Affairs.

Mr. He said that after October 1, many house churches in that town met with the same fate: “Now we know, first of all, that three locations were all raided recently.”

Reporter: Where were the three other locations?
Answer: They are all nearby. We heard that similar things happened there.

Reporter: Do you have their names?
Answer: At the moment, I’m not clear about this.

In addition, the Wudaokou, Tiantongyuan and 3927 branches of the Beijing Chenguang Bookstore, which mainly sells religious literature, were successively inspected by several relevant departments before and after October 1 and are now facing closure.

Bookstore founder Pastor Cui Yuese, told this radio station on Monday: “The situation is not clear right now. We’re waiting for the results of their inspection and then we’ll see. For the moment, we are not accepting any interviews. If they intentionally come looking for us [to make trouble], we’ll speak out again then. Thank you for your concern.”

Reporter: Which kinds of accounts are they inspecting?
Answer: Various departments were here. For the time being, let’s not say which departments. Anyway, many departments were here.

Reporter: How long will their inspections take?
Answer: I reckon this week there will probably be a result, since they’ve been inspecting [the books] for two weeks already.

This is a report by Radio Free Asia special correspondent Qiao Long.

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