Chinese officials detained multiple members of a congregation on Easter for participating in an online Zoom worship service and even shut off the electricity of one of the church members, according to a new report.
The members of Early Rain Covenant Church were gathering on Zoom on Easter morning when Chinese security officials blocked the meeting on the Internet and took six members into custody from their homes, according to International Christian Concern.
Early Rain is an illegal unregistered church that was shut down by Chinese officials in 2018. Its members have stopped gathering in-person.
Early Rain’s pastor, Wang Yi, last year was sentenced to nine years in prison for “inciting subversion of state power” and “illegal business operations,” although his only crime was to preach the gospel in an unregistered church, supporters say.
A church member told ICC of the Easter meeting, “At that time I was also in the Zoom call, but there was a long period of time where I did not hear a thing. I thought it’s the network connection issue at first, but I soon heard a quarrel erupt. Our coworker Wang Jun was questioning some people, [saying], ‘Who are you to do this [to us]?’”
Church members Wang, Guo Haigang, Wu Wuqing, Jia Xuewei, Zhang Jianqing and Zhang Xudong were detained and later released, ICC reported.
Zhang Jiangqing reportedly was warned by police, “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!”
Gina Goh, ICC’s Regional Manager for Southeast Asia, said China’s action warrant an international response.
“It is such a shame that the Chinese government has not once stopped its persecution of ERCC,” Goh said. “Ever since the … crackdown in 2018, local authorities have continued to monitor and harass ERCC members, with the hope that the church will disperse itself. In a time when the Chinese people are suffering from the COVID-19 pandemic, the heartless regime chose to inflict more trouble on its citizens. The UN should immediately suspend China’s appointment to the Human Rights Council for its lack of respect for human rights.”
Photo courtesy: ©Liam Read/Unsplash
Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, The Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.