International Christian Concern (ICC) has learned that on June 4 at 3:30 pm, local authorities raided Autumn Rain Covenant Church in Sichuan, China to summon pastor Wang Yi and preacher Li Yingqiang ahead of their scheduled prayer vigil for the 1989 Tiananmen crackdown.
Two hours later, pastor Wang Yi, his wife Jiang Rong, four preachers Li Yingqiang, Zhang Xudong, Ge Yingfeng, An Yankui, 11 other members of the church including Weng Guanghe, Liu Yingxu, Dai Zhichao, and Ran Yifei were taken away by the police.
In the process, preacher Li Yingqiang was brutally pushed against the wall, choked, and slapped multiple times by police officers. The authorities also cut the church’s electricity and placed a notice on the wall which reads, “[…] this is not an authorized place for religious gathering, […] please go to an authorized and registered religious venue to participate in religious activities.”
A source in China who wishes not to be named confirmed with ICC that, at the time of writing, the entire group is still being held by the government. Neither pastor Wang Yi nor his wife could be contacted.
June 4 marks the 29th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square crackdown in China, where an estimated several hundred to thousands of student protesters were killed by the government, with more than 10,000 people arrested during and after the protests.
According to South China Morning Post, since 2009, the Church has designated the period between May 12 and June 4 its “prayer month” to remember the natural and man-made disasters that have hit China on those two dates. May 12 was the anniversary of the devastating earthquake that struck Sichuan in 2008 while June 4 was the anniversary of the Tiananmen crackdown.
This was not the first time that Pastor Wang Yi has been targeted by the government. On May 12, he and dozens of his congregants were detained before they could hold a memorial service for the 2008 Sichuan earthquake. He has also been barred from participating in overseas Christian conferences several times in the past years. The underground church pastor is known for his resiliency and outspokenness against the government’s crackdown on Christians.
The leadership of the church sent out an urgent message yesterday, telling people that “as long as there is one body in Christ who has not returned home, we will not cease praying. May God use prayers to overturn the hearts of people in power!”
Gina Goh, ICC’s Regional Manager, said, “Chinese Christians continue to face a growing crackdown under President Xi Jinping, especially those who refuse to submit to the government’s control. It’s shameful that three decades after the infamous Tiananmen incident, Beijing is still fearful of its people, viewing people of faith and activists as the state’s enemy. China will never be a great country unless it learns to listen and respect the rights of its citizens.”
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Publication date: June 5, 2018