(Shunde, Guangdong Province – January 19, 2024) On January 7, local special police, auxiliary police, national security agents, religious affairs bureau personnel, and community workers jointly conducted a raid against Guangzhou Bible Reformed Church Dashi branch while Christians were gathering in a farm and praying during mealtime in Shunde district of Foshan City.
While Christians were sitting around several dining tables in the dining room of the farm, they were interrupted by dozens of police officers and government officials armed with real guns. They claimed to be investigating illegal religious activities, demanded registration of the identity information of each Christian present, and interrogated and searched the organizers on the spot.
A Christian gestured for everyone to be quiet and said,”Only actions defined as illegal by the law are truly illegal. We have not violated any laws. Please be seated, and we need to video record everything.”
A young Christian, attempting to take photos, was stopped by plainclothes police officers. The plainclothes police officers approached, attempting to seize his phone.
Another nearby person said, “We have the right to record videos; we have the right to oversee the exercise of power.” Five plainclothes police officers surrounded the him, intending to take him away. The man asked why they wanted to take him away, questioning what crime he had committed. The police responded, “We need to inspect you now.” The man retorted, “You act like bandits. As citizens, why can’t we take photos?” A police officer pointed fiercely at him, saying, “I told you not to take photos for now. First, listen to our intentions!” Another police officer added, “You can take photos. If you distort the facts or post them online, you will be responsible for the consequences.” The man countered, “Isn’t this behavior akin to that of bandits? We can take photos, and you can too, showing that you are enforcing the law fairly.”
The plainclothes police officers claimed that there were children present, and one church member responded that the children were his, asking, “What’s the problem with that?” The officers accused the Christian of organizing an illegal religious activity, and another official asked if he was a Pastor or Elder. The Christian clarified that he was neither, just there to pray.
A plainclothes police officer stopped a young female from taking photos, and she asked him why. She asserted, “We have civil rights, and citizens have the right to oversee law enforcement.” The plainclothes police officer walked away. Another Christian mentioned that the Constitution guarantees religious freedom. The plainclothes police officer responded, “This is not about religious freedom now. Look at Article 41 of the ‘Regulations on Religious Affairs.’“ The female believer stated, “We only accept the Constitution; we abide by the Constitution.” The police officer requested all Christians present to register their identity information one by one. Another female believer remarked, “We believe in God. The government is determining things that God has not determined. What kind of logic is this?”
The man leading the prayer on the podium was taken out for separate questioning. His wife wanted to accompany him but was stopped by the police. They requested her to go back inside and even mentioned taking her to the police car. The wife questioned, “What authority do you have to restrict my personal freedom? Have I committed any crime? That’s my husband; you took him away. Can’t I go out to have a look?” An elderly Christian intended to go out to accompany the brother taken away, but the police stopped him, saying, “Are you trying to cause trouble?”
One man bravely reminded the police that they had not broken laws according to Article 36 of the Constitution, there is freedom of religious belief. He said:
“Why did you take him away? When he was cooperating with your inquiries and had not broken any law, you cannot take him out. We are familiar with the law; this isn’t the first time we’ve encountered such so-called religious law enforcement. We didn’t break any law. We came here to have a meal, and as Christians, we pray. Whether we violated religious laws or not should be determined by the religious affairs bureau. Only when it is determined as illegal can the police enforce it. To protect the law, us, the police, and the religious affairs bureau, we will cooperate. Our brother has been taken away, and we need to see him, ensuring everyone’s safety; everyone is equal before the law.”
Guangzhou Bible Reformed Church is a house church that refuses to join Three-Self church. Pastor Huang Xiaoning is a renowned pastor. Since the implementation of the new “Regulations on Religious Affairs” in 2018, the church’s Sunday services have been raided by the police multiple times, and Pastor Huang Xiaoning has been repeatedly “invited for tea” and detained. The church has six branches, all of which were simultaneously raided by local government authorities in May 2023. Elders, Preachers, and Co-workers were taken away by the police. In June 2023, a special task force targeting the church was established in Panyu District. They tried to lure Pastor Huang Xiaoning to join the Three-Self Church and move away from Panyu. Pastor Huang Xiaoning’s stance remained firm: know what should believe; action on what should be done; live life as usual until something extreme happens. On August 24, 2023, Guangzhou Bible Reformed Church was banned, and the banning notice declared that the unregistered family church “Guangzhou Bible Reformed Church” was deemed an illegal social organization. The branched raided today is one of the gathering venues affiliated with the church. The persecution of Christianity in Foshan region has intensified over the past two years.