About 100 Christians arrested in China in their homes, from the streets and in illegal church gatherings in the South Western part of the country.
Chinese authorities targeted members of the Early Rain Covenant Church across various districts of Chengdu, the provincial capital of Sichuan, in what appears to be an effort to close down one of the country’s most prominent Protestant house churches.
According to Scmp.com, members’ personal accounts and cell group discussions on social media channels were blocked at around 9pm on Sunday while the church’s telephone line was also cut. The homes of the church’s leaders, including pastor Wang Yi, were among those raided.
Zhang Guoqing, assistant deacon of the Early Rain Covenant Church, was among two church members who were released on Monday morning after his arrest by Chengdu police in the Sunday night raids.
He is now being watched around the clock by “security personnel” in his home.
Zhang said he headed to Wang’s home at around 7pm on Sunday after hearing about the raids but the pastor and his wife Jiang Rong were nowhere to be found.
“His home was ransacked. It was a mess,” Zhang said.
“The police said our church is an illegal organisation and we cannot attend any more gatherings from now on.”
The Early Rain Covenant Church is one of China’s few unofficial house churches – Christian assemblies that operate without state sanction – and this is not the first time Wang and other members of the church have been detained.
While most of China’s Protestant house churches operate underground to avoid attracting official attention and control, the Early Rain congregation openly practises its faith, posting sermons online and evangelising on the streets.