Christian rights group International Christian Concern (ICC) reported that Chinese authorities raided several house churches across the country and arrested several religious leaders in the past week.
The report said among those arrested on August 17 were Pastor Lian Chang-Nian and his wife Guo Jiuju, his son Pastor Lian Xuliang and wife Zhang Jun along with their nine-year-old son.
Also arrested were preacher Fu Juan and his sister Xing Aiping from Xi’an’s Abundant Church.
The authorities charged the church members of “illegal gathering,” “illegal venue,” and “illegal collection of funds.”
A church member who witnessed the arrest told ICC that Pastor Lian Xuliang had several injuries to his head and arms.
The pastors’ wives and sister Xing were later released, said the report but the Lians and Preacher Fu were still reported missing.
On August 19, a gathering of at least 70 members of Linfen Holy Covenant Church in Shanxi province were also raided, said the report.
On the same day, the families of ethnic Nu Christians Wang Shunping and Nu Sangdeng also received criminal detention notices.
Wang and Nu were later detained for “allegedly organizing and sponsoring illegal gathering.”
On August 21, the House of Light Church in Jilin province’s Changchun was raided by police during its Sunday worship, said the ICC.
The authorities reportedly took Pastor Zhang Yong, elder Qu Hongliang, and brother Zhang Liangliang.
The detained Christians were later released on August 22 but were asked to report back to the police later this week.
The raids came a week after members of the Chengdu-based Early Rain Covenant Church and Beijing Zion Church were arrested during a Sunday service.
“Just like what the newly elected president of the Patriotic Association of Chinese Catholics, Beijing Archbishop Joseph Li Shan, said, ‘The church authority needs to submit to the [Chinese Communist Party] regime; one must listen to the party,’” the report quoted Father Francis Liu from the Chinese Christian Fellowship of Righteousness.
“This latest round of persecution seeks to strictly control people’s thoughts,” he said.
Gina Goh, ICC’s regional manager for Southeast Asia, said the Chinese government “is fearful of many things; one thing being people with religious beliefs.”
“They want to ensure Chinese citizens are loyal to the CCP’s ideology and nothing else,” she said, adding that it translates into church crackdown, “re-education camps” for Uyghurs, and demolition of Buddhist statues.