A video has emerged of a violent raid on a Chinese church in the city of Xiamen. The attack was part of a coordinated effort to persecute Christians in the country, discourage new members, and also ring in churches unaffiliated with the state.
The video shows state police forcing themselves through the door of an intimate bible study. Many then grabbed at men and women in an attempt to drag them out. Some worshippers tried to resist the police or protect their fellow members. Others recorded the incident, ostensibly to show the world what had taken place.
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After the raid, the church was banned from continuing. The state police detained nine people. As reported by Radio Free Asia, the congregation was meeting in a member’s private residence when the raid occurred. The police burst in without any documentation, warrant, or prior notice.
Forcing to Control
Pastor Yang Xibo told Radio Free Asia, “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. We went to the hospital with them, so we could record the evidence.”
According to Yang, the raid seems like punishment for the church’s refusal to join the Three-Self Patriotic Association. The said association is a government-run union to oversee the Protestant church in mainland China. The organization is the Chinese government’s way of controlling the culture, influence, and message of the Christians in the country.
A key principle of the organization is “self-support”, namely financial independence from foreigners. Chinese leadership views this as an essential way to prevent other countries, such as the United States, from infiltrating Chinese society through the Church.
This was not an isolated incident. The raid is consistent with a policy of increased oppression against Christians and other religious minorities in China. All of them are led by President Xi Jinping.
Using the Pandemic to Clamp Down
The Chinese Communist Party is using the pandemic to pursue a much older objective. It aims to dismantle of the Christian Church within Chinese territory. Over the years, the party has gradually chipped away at what remains of religious freedom on the mainland, and the pandemic has simply opened a more aggressive chapter in those efforts.
Two years ago, the Chinese government shut down the Early Rain Covenant Church (ERCC), closing the doors to its 5,000-member congregation. The government raided the church’s leadership, arresting over 100 people. Since then, police have maintained a harassment campaign aimed at discouraging membership and eventually dissolving the congregation.
Using the pandemic as the pretext for greater social control, the Chinese government has recently become more aggressive. Now, it seeks to shut down online services as well.
Online Congregation Meetings
Pastor Wang Yi, the leader of the ERCC, had been legally leading his congregation through online services since the physical location was shut down in 2018. At the beginning of 2020, he was sentenced to nine years in prison for subversive behavior. Now, the government is banning the church from meetings of any kind, virtual or otherwise.
Church leader Zhang Jiangqing told the Christian Post police arrived at his house and harassed his family, saying “ “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!”
Democratic nations like the United States, Canada, and European countries have toed a delicate line when it comes to Chinese abuse of religious minorities. Leaders feel torn between their nations’ values of religious liberty and a desire to maintain a positive relationship with China. However, in the wake of increased tensions driven by the pandemic, attacks such as this may receive greater pushback from the free world.