Chinese police raided the homes of members of the Early Rain Covenant Church on Easter Sunday, arresting six church leaders for participating in an online religious service via Zoom.
“At that time I was also in the Zoom call, but there was a long period of time where I did not hear a thing,” one church member told persecution watchdog group International Christian Concern (ICC). “I thought it’s the network connection issue at first, but I soon heard a quarrel erupt. Our co-worker Wang Jun was questioning some people, ‘Who are you to do this [to us]?’”
Police disconnected the electricity in one of the homes and others were warned via phone calls that the security forces were coming.
Early Rain Covenant Church was first raided during a Sunday evening service in December 2018 after authorities claimed it violated religious regulations because it was not registered with the government.
Communist authorities shut down the 5,000-member Early Rain Covenant Church in December 2018 and arrested its pastor, Wang Yi, along with his wife, Jiang Rong, and more than 100 members of his congregation. Wang was later sentenced to nine years in prison. Since the closing of the church, members have conducted worship services online.
Last Sunday’s worship service began at 9:30 a.m. and included a taped sermon given by imprisoned Pastor Wang Yi, which apparently sparked the raids.
According to an account by church member Zhang Jiangqing, police came to his house and threatened harsh treatment if he continues to listen to Wang’s sermons.
“Don’t participate in already banned [religious] activities anymore! Don’t listen to Pastor [Wang]’s sermons anymore! If you do this again, we will deal with it seriously and take you away!” Zhang reportedly said.
Since Sunday’s raid, all six church leaders who had been detained have been released and the electricity restored to the home where it was cut off.
As Breitbart News has reported, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has been using the Wuhan coronavirus epidemic as an excuse to intensify its crackdown on religion, bulldozing some churches and placing others under heavy surveillance.
“China is now holding itself up as a model for fighting the coronavirus. But fighting the pandemic hasn’t stopped communist officials from persecuting Christians,” Todd Nettleton, a spokesman for the nonprofit group Voice of the Martyrs (VOM), said in late March.
Chinese officials have reportedly vandalized other churches and ordered a ban on “unregistered” religious services on the grounds of public health.
In February, the Religious Affairs Bureau of the northeastern province of Jilin issued a document calling on authorities to “rectify” house churches, which the government deems illegal.
The document instructed local authorities to investigate house churches and collect information on “when they were established, who is in charge of them, and how large the congregations are” as a first step to shutting them down altogether, stated a report by Bitter Winter.
While suppressing all online religious activities, the government also plans to shut down all seminaries, training classes, kindergartens, as well as regular and Sunday schools run by house churches, according to a “government insider.”
“In China there is freedom of worship, a freedom that permits going to Mass, but clergy are controlled in their activities, controlled in their meetings, controlled in their subject matter, and even controlled in their homilies,” Father Bernardo Cervellera, the director of AsiaNews, the official press agency of the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions (PIME), stated in a newly released documentary.
“So religious freedom is stripped to the bone,” the priest said.
“All the religions in China are controlled in the same way,” Cervellera declares. “Especially now as in China there is a great religious rebirth of all religions but especially of Protestants and Catholics, the government is really scared of this religious growth, so it tries to control all religions and tries to suffocate this religious rebirth.”