As part of its continuing crackdown on Christians and other religious believers, the Communist government of China seized a reported 100 members of the Early Rain Covenant Church, an underground Protestant church, on Dec. 9, including its pastor, Wang Yi and his wife.
In addition, Communist authorities seized another 60 members of the church on Dec. 16 and placed a lock on the gate to the church.
The Early Rain Covenant members' cell phones and social media accounts were blocked before they were arrested, reported the South China Morning Post. In addition, the telephone line at the church in Chengdu, Sichuan was cut.
Assistant Deacon Zhang Guoqing was arrested on Dec. 9 and then released on Dec. 10. He is being watched by "security personnel" in his home, according to the Morning Post.
“The police said our church is an illegal organisation and we cannot attend any more gatherings from now on," said Zhang. He also said that Pastor Wang's house had been "ransacked" by Communist officials and "was a mess."
Bob Fu, head of the non-profit Christian relief group ChinaAid, was reported by the Morning Post as saying there have been "more than 10,000 cases of detention of Christians this year," in China, "compared with just over 3,000 cases for the whole of last year."
"In September, Beijing police closed the Zion Church, one of the largest Protestant churches in China with more than 1,500 regular church-goers," stated the Morning Post.
Concerning the 60 Early Rain Covenant members who were arrested on Dec. 16, ChiaAid reported that "authorities took the Christians into custody for attending their weekly Sunday service. A baby is among the detained, as is Minister Cao Qingen, who was beaten."
"Sichuan’s government has been targeting Early Rain Covenant Church consistently throughout the year, even persecuting them for remembering the 1989 Tiananmen Square Massacre and the victims of a deadly 2008 earthquake," said ChinaAid.
Regarding all 160 people arrested, authorities have released some of them but charged others with criminal offenses. As ChinaAid reported, "Pastor Wang Yi and his wife, Jiang Rong, have been detained on 'inciting subversion of state power' charges; Elder Qin Defu, Fu Lijun, Lü Jinheng, Li Xiaofeng, and Deacon Ge Yingfeng were charged with 'illegal business operations'; and Huang Yaling, Wang Fei, Elder Li Yingqiang, and Elder Li Zhu were accused of 'stirring up trouble.'"
"Officials have prevented all of them from meeting with their lawyers, a tactic that violates Chinese law but is often employed during procedures targeting prisoners incarcerated for political or religious reasons," said ChinaAid.
Christians and other religious believers have been persecuted in China since the Communist Party takeover in 1949-50. Under the Communist dictatorship in China, scholars estimate that at least 65 million people have been killed for political reasons.