The pastor of a Chinese church says police last month secretly installed security cameras to monitor the congregation’s activities and to try and force him to stop preaching, according to a new report.
Pastor Ma Chao of the Guangfu house church in Guangdong province told China Aid he was heading to a prayer meeting in May when he noticed three cameras outside the church building, pointing toward the main entrance.
He was told police had installed them to watch Ma and the church’s members.
The cameras were installed several days after police investigated three church members at the building.
“Four police officers came, saying that they were investigating the church’s gathering. Two of them said we were not allowed to meet,” Ma said. “I was not present at the time, but pastor Wu, along with another pastor and elder were there.”
The church members asked the police for their identification and for the reason behind their visit, but were refused.
“A police said that his uniform is the ID,” Ma told China Aid. “They also took pictures of the church’s Bibles, hymnbooks, and said that this is where Ma Chao has his illegal gathering, so they came specifically for it.”
Police also investigated Ma in April. He believes the visits are “meant to threaten him and push him out of Guangzhou,” International Christian Concern reported.
Although Ma’s church is an illegal, unregistered house church, China has used cameras to monitor legal Three-Self Patriotic Movement congregations, too.
Last year, Bitter Winter reported that 155 of the 170 Three-Self churches in one section of Huai’an city (Jiangsu province) had government-mandated cameras. They are connected to a network, allowing Chinese officials to monitor Christians.
“The Religious Affairs Bureau pressured us into installing them,” a member of one church in Huai’an city told Bitter Winter. “Each surveillance camera is connected to the public security organs, as required by the Religious Affairs Bureau. They can see every move in the church. If we didn’t follow their demands, the church would have to be shut down.”
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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.