ChinaAid, a religious freedom watchdog group, published a smartphone video this week that showed Chinese officials conducting a violent raid on a church in Fujian province.
The invaders assaulted congregants, stole their phones to prevent them from documenting the raid, and dragged people out of the service. Eyewitnesses said police did not present a warrant for the raid.
Another clip posted to YouTube on Tuesday captured the aggressive raid from above.
The raid was conducted against Xingguang Church in the southeastern city of Xiamen. The venue is one of the famed “house churches” in China, with services held at a private residence.
ChinaAid described the raid, which was evidently captured on a phone the authorities were unable to confiscate or uploaded before they could take the phone away:
In a video taken at the scene, officers and attendees of Xingguang Church shout as they engage in a physical altercation. As they block the entrance, officials drag a Christian to the door, with other congregants fighting along with him.
The Christian men guarding the door were beaten and pinned down. Officers confiscated phones and used brutal force against some Christian women as well.
Xingguang Church’s meeting place is located in a private residence, and neighbors of the location where the service was being held filmed the encounter. Police broke down barriers and dragged brought three people out.
During the proceedings, the officers did not show any warrants. The church was later banned.
At least one of the beaten Christians had to seek medical treatment. He also filed a police report.
Fox News noted that a pastor in Hunan province was arrested for “subversion” last month after his home was raided, and there have been numerous other examples of Chinese officials using bureaucratic excuses to destroy churches and confiscate religious materials.
According to Radio Free Asia (RFA), “hundreds of police” were involved in the raid, and “an estimated nine people were detained” without clear charges.
Another watchdog group, International Christian Concern (ICC), identified the invaders caught on video as “dozens of security guards and officers from the local Ethnic and Religious Bureau” and noted they can be heard ordering church members and curious onlookers to “stop filming” the raid. ICC said six people were detained during the raid and held until 9:00 p.m. that evening when they were “welcomed with applause and hugs as they stepped out of the police station.”
Pastor Yang Xibo said he believes his church was targeted because it refused to join China’s state-controlled Three-Self Patriotic Association. According to ICC, the same church was raided on April 19 by a coordinated force from five different government departments and has been told it will face “administrative punishment” for “violating several articles of the religious regulations,” possibly including forced dissolution of the church.
Both Pastor Yang and another eyewitness said the forces that raided the church did not display a warrant or any form of official identification, although they collected copious amounts of identification from the churchgoers, and they played rough:
The state security police came banging at the door, then they kicked it down and dragged those in the way outside the doorway, dragging them to the ground,” Yang said in an interview on Monday.
“One person’s ribs were cracked, and they are now in a lot of pain, and a lot of the [female church members] have bruises on their arms and legs,” he said. “We went to the hospital with them, so we could record the evidence.”
An eyewitness said the church members had no warning.
“They didn’t say anything, nor show any documentation, but they just broke in,” he said. “They pinned a man and a woman to the floor, pinning them down by chest and legs using their knees.”
Other church members noted the service was a “gathering of mostly friends and relatives” held in a private residence, and the Chinese government technically has no legal justification for raiding an “unlicensed” church.
“We would like the whole of society to pay attention to this violent behavior,” one church member told RFA. “They are lawless and indiscriminate.”