Authorities in China’s Xiamen city raided a moms group affiliated with an influential house church as they held a meeting in a private home to talk about parenting. Officers accused the women of organizing “unauthorized” religious activities and apprehended them for interrogation at a police station, according to reports.
Public security officials barged into the meeting on Wednesday morning without showing any documents authorizing them to raid the group in the port city on China’s southeast coast in Fujian Province, the U.S.-based persecution watchdog International christian Concern reported.
About a dozen mothers who had gathered to share books and discuss parenting were then taken to the Wucun police station, likely because of their affiliation with Xunsiding Church, which was disbanded by the government last year. Police released them in the afternoon after the Communist Party’s Ethnic and Religious Affairs Bureau issued an order demanding the women “correct their behavior,” International christian Concern said.
The owner of the house where the meeting was held was accused of violating the Regulations of Religious Affairs by organizing unauthorized religious activities. The owner was warned that if the behavior was not “corrected,” administrative punishment would follow, China Aid reported.
The historic Xunsiding Church was shut down by authorities last May.
Gina Goh, a regional manager for International christian Concern in Southeast Asia, recently said that China had resumed its crackdown on Christianity after the threat posed by the coronavirus pandemic had reduced.
“In recent weeks, we have seen an increased number of church demolitions and cross removals on state-sanctioned churches across China, as house church gatherings continue to face interruption and harassment. It is deplorable that the local authorities not only conducted this raid without proper procedure but deployed excessive use of force against church members and bystanders,” she said.
State-sponsored churches in parts of China that were forced to close due to COVID-19 lockdowns are only permitted to reopen if they hand money over to the Chinese Communist Party, according to a recent report.
A Three-Self church director from Heze, a prefecture-level city in the eastern province of Shandong, told Bitter Winter, a publication produced by the Center for Studies on New Religion which covers human rights issues in China, that state-run churches in the area had been ordered to collect money for coronavirus-affected areas. According to the director, officials from the CCP’s Religious Affairs Bureau threatened to shut down many churches if they did not donate.
Authorities in Zhangcun town issued donation quotas ranging from 4,000 to 10,000 RMB (between $560 and $1,400) to Three-Self churches, while Christians in Xianju were ordered to donate 100 RMB (about $14) to Wuhan, the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak.
Bitter Winter reported in June that authorities had removed crosses from more than 250 state-sanctioned churches in Anhui province between January and April.
In its 2020 annual report, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom noted that not only have authorities removed crosses from churches across the nation, but they have also banned youth aged 18 and younger from participating in religious services.
On Open Doors USA’s World Watch List, China is ranked as one of the worst countries in the world when it comes to the persecution of Christians. The organization notes that all churches are perceived as a threat if they become too large, too political, or invite foreign guests.