Authorities arrested a pastor and members of the Early Rain Qingcaodi Church in Deyang, China, on November 17, said a report from rights group International Christian Concern on November 23.
Among those arrested was Church elder Wu Jiannan and his wife, and retired pastor Hao Mingchang and his wife.
Wu Jiannan and his wife were later released while the others remained in detention, said the report.
Early Rain Qingcaodi traces its roots to the Early Rain Covenant Church in Chengdu, China, that has been under surveillance by the authorities.
The Church is a member of the Western China Reformed Presbytery.
Qingcaodi’s troubles with the Chinese authorities started in 2018 when the Church’s former elder, Hao Ming, signed a “joint statement” launched by Pastor Wang Yi of Early Rain Covenant Church.
The statement, which was published in September 2018, calls for the freedom of Christian Churches to practice their religion. It was signed by 439 Chinese pastors.
Many of the signatories of the statement were later either jailed or faced charges.
Since the statement’s publication, Chinese police officers cracked down on the Early Rain Covenant Church, and later the Qingcaodi, which was banned by the China’s Religious Affairs Bureau and Civil Affairs Bureau.
In March 2021, the Sichuan Province Department of Civil Affairs included Early Rain Covenant Church and Early Rain Qingcaodi Church on their list of illegal organizations.
The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) under general secretary Xi Jinping regards Christianity as a dangerous foreign import, with party documents warning against the “infiltration of Western hostile forces” in the form of religion.
The party, which embraces atheism, exercises tight controls over any form of religious practice among its citizens.
State security police and religious affairs bureau officials frequently raid unofficial “house churches” that aren’t members of the CCP-backed Three-Self Patriotic Association, although member churches have also been targeted at times.
China is home to an estimated 68 million Protestants, of whom 23 million worship in state-affiliated churches under the aegis of the Three-Self Patriotic Association, and some nine million Catholics, the majority of whom are in state-sponsored organizations. – with a report from Radio Free Asia