At least three house churches in China were raided by Chinese authorities recently with their leaders being arrested and detained on trumped-up charges.
International Christian Concern (ICC), a U.S.-based persecution watchdog, reports authorities raided the Xi'an Abundant Church, the Linfen Holy Covenant Church, and Changchun city's House of Light Church.
Xi'an Abundant Church
On Aug. 17, Pastor Lian Chang-Nian and his wife Guo Jiuju, his son Pastor Lian Xuliang and wife Zhang Jun along with their 9-year-old son, Preacher Fu Juan, and sister Xing Aiping from Xi'an's Abundant Church were taken to Shilipu police station after their homes were raided.
The following day, the adults were handcuffed and brought to their church for a staged photoshoot. The authorities later announced the verdict for their crimes of illegal gathering, illegal venue, and illegal collection of funds. A church member who witnessed the photoshoot said Pastor Lian had apparently been mistreated since he had several injuries to his head and arms, according to the ICC.
While the pastors' wives and sister Xing were released that same evening, the Lians and Preacher Fu were still missing. The father and son duo are being held under residential surveillance at a designated location in Shaanxi province for "fraud."
Linfen Holy Covenant Church
On Aug. 19 around 7:00 pm, 70 members of Linfen Holy Covenant Church in Shanxi province were enjoying an outdoor family event when 170 police officers conducted a raid with overwhelming force. After being searched, their cell phones confiscated, all of the members were arrested and led away by the police, the ICC reported.
In the meantime, police also searched church coworkers Li Jie and Han Xiaodong homes, confiscating documents and books. Li, his wife Li Shanshan, and Han went missing after the raid. Another member, Hou Guobao was also arrested.
Nujiang Ethnic Nu Christians
On Aug. 19, the families of ethnic Nu Christians Wang Shunping and Nu Sangdeng received criminal detention notices for the two Christian men. Wang and Nu were detained for "allegedly organizing and sponsoring illegal gathering" by Fugong County's Public Security Bureau in Nujiang Prefecture, according to the ICC.
San Luopo and two Christian women from out of town were also reportedly detained but no official document has been issued.
Changchun City's House of Light Church
The ICC also reported the House of Light Church in Jilin province's Changchun was raided by police during its Aug. 21 Sunday worship services. The authorities dispersed all of those in attendance before arresting Pastor Zhang Yong (aka Guo Muyun), elder Qu Hongliang, and brother Zhang Liangliang.
Due to the violent nature of the raid, two female members suffered heart attacks and first responders were called to the scene.
The detained Christians were later released early in the morning on Aug. 22, though the men were treated brutally while in detention. The ICC reported the men must report back to the police on Saturday.
Beijing's Ongoing Crackdown on House Churches
The latest series of crackdowns come a week after Chengdu-based Early Rain Covenant Church and Beijing Zion Church saw their members arrested during a Sunday service. It is unclear why Beijing has launched this new wave of crackdowns on house churches, the ICC reports.
"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.' This latest round of persecution seeks to strictly control people's thoughts," Father Francis Liu from the Chinese Christian Fellowship of Righteousness told the watchdog.
According to Liu, the churches that were raided over the weekend mostly follow reformed tradition, which stresses the church's independence, whereas some evangelical or charismatic house churches he knows firmly advocate for patriotism.
"Xi Jinping's regime is fearful of many things; one thing being people with religious beliefs," said Gina Goh, ICC's Regional Manager for Southeast Asia. "They want to ensure Chinese citizens are loyal to the CCP's ideology and nothing else. This fear translates into church crackdown, 're-education camps' for Uyghurs, and demolition of Buddhist statues. House churches are bracing themselves for potentially the worst clampdown since the Cultural Revolution."
As CBN's Faithwire reported last month, authorities in China's Hebei province destroyed an underground Catholic church after its leader refused to fall in line with the country's communist regime.
After the congregation failed to comply with the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association, a state-sanctioned organization giving President Xi Jinping control over parishes in the communist country, authorities demolished the church while its leader, Dong Baolu, was in the hospital for hemiplegia.
Catholic churches – like all houses of worship in the country – are only allowed to operate in China if they are registered with the communist government and under its control.