LOS ANGELES (Morning Star News) – Local police broke up the worship service of a house church and arrested its pastor in China’s Xinjiang region for the second time earlier this month as pastors at Beijing Shouwang Church remained under house arrest.
In Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, at least 20 police officers from the Urumqi Municipal Public Security Bureau and the Xishan Police Station on Aug. 4 terminated worship and arrested pastor Tan Wen. The officers did not show any identification or follow correct procedures, according to news portal Monitor China, just as five officers without police uniform failed to do when they disrupted a service and detained the pastor for 10 days on June 9.
In the latest raid on the church in China’s northwestern region, officers also seized Bibles, hymnals and other books.
“The police also tried to take away Pastor Tan, but the congregation blocked the door and negotiated with the police, asking why they were being harassed, to which the officers answered that they were not permitted to gather and would be arrested every time they came together,” Monitor China reported. “The police then exited the church through a back door, taking Pastor Tan with them to the police station.”
Authorities transferred the pastor to Xishan Police Station and then to a detention center that night to serve a 15-day sentence, according to China Monitor.
In the June 9 raid, three men and two women in plainclothes broke into the house where the church was worshipping – some members of the congregation feared they were being robbed – and shouted, “Yours is an illegal assembly, and all of you must stay still,” according to China Aid Association (CAA).
“Although the police officer refused to provide any identification themselves, they interrogated the worshippers for more than an hour, threatening to take the young people to the police station for further questioning,” CAA reported. “When the worshippers demanded to see official identification, one of the officers stated that those who raid illegal Christian gatherings do not need to show identification.”
Local police, overstepping procedural bounds, sentenced the pastor to 10 days of public security detention and fined him 500 Yuan (US$81), according to CAA.
Two other house churches that whose worship services were disrupted in Urumqi, one on June 23 and the other on July 21, were also hit with detentions and fines. CAA stated that in all the Urumqi raids, police failed to show identification and imposed penalties that had no basis in law, as such matters are regulated by the Bureau of Religion.
“The officers had no authority to regulate the citizens’ religious faith,” CAA stated. “The relevant facts and applicable law were misstated by the officers and did not support the penalties imposed. The officers’ actions violated the Christians’ religious freedom and personal rights.”
On the eastern side of the country in Hebei Province surrounding Beijing, a priest of an unregistered Catholic Church fellowship was arrested this month. Law enforcement officials arrested the Rev. Song Wanjun of Xiwanzi, Qiaodong District at 4 a.m. on Aug. 7 as he was driving, according to Asia News.
In Beijing, a source told Morning Star News that two pastors’ at Shouwang Church are still under house arrest more than two years after the fellowship was forced to worship in the open air.
“At the doors of at least two pastors’ homes, there are still a couple of plain-clothes police officers on their duty 24 hours a day,” said the source, who requested anonymity. “The other major co-workers are under house arrest for somewhat different hours.”
The church has been meeting outside since April 10, 2011 after authorities pressured a landlord to terminate the lease on their building. Officials had also blocked the fellowship from the premises it had bought in 2009.
Members of the 1,000-strong church have been routinely arrested at the outdoor services.
“The time of detention over the recent months is a few hours on average, which is shorter than the past, when it could be 24 or even 48 hours,” the source said.
Of the 38 people arrested last Sunday (Aug. 11), one woman suffered maltreatment, according to a statement from the church.
“It was really sad for us to hear that one sister was manhandled by a deputy director at Zhongguancun West District police station, who seized her by the throat and pulled her hair,” the church states. “Our sister calmly faced such rough treatment, and forgave this man by God’s grace. Nevertheless, we still condemn this deputy director for his evil-doing.”
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