A Protestant house church in Guiyang, China was raided by authorities, who captured over a dozen Christians.
The Ren'ai Reformed Church in the Guiyang provincial capital of Guizhou, China, was raided by Chinese police on Tuesday morning. Authorities captured more than 12 Christian participants in the peaceful Bible study group, which was led by church elder Zhang Chunlei, who was also later detained when he appeared at the police station to ask after those who were taken away.
Radio Free Asia reported that the news came via a local Christian who spoke about the event. The witness said that the Bible study group's leader, Zhang, went to the police station at 5 p.m. after he was called in for questioning. As of the time of the report, the Christians were still being detained by Chinese police.
Another Guiyang resident by the name of Li admitted that it was uncommon for Protestant house churches to physically meet after the Chinese authorities put into place several gathering restrictions due to the pandemic. Li shared that Christians often gathered via online meetings as "Offline gatherings are restricted."
He said that if they are to gather in person, they do so in small groups of a dozen or less. He said, "Large-scale gatherings are definitely banned."
Zhang, who was captured during the Chinese police raid at the Bible study group's gathering, was one of the first Protestant pastors to sign a Declaration of the Christian Faith that was created by pastor Wang Yi.
Wang had also been captured by Chinese police and sent to jail. Before this week's raid, Zhang had already experienced repeated surveillance and harassment at the hands of state security police. He was also prevented from participating in religious activities or communicating with members of his church.
There has been no word as to why the Chinese police raided the peaceful Bible study group in Guiyang. However, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has restrictions in place as to what is considered a "house church." Li shared,
"As far as we can tell, the [CCP's] United Front Work Department and the secret agencies of the Chinese government have their own definition of what can be called a house church in China. They think it should refer to a family gathering with only relatives present."
Current COVID-19 restrictions in China prevent religious meetings that involve more than one household. Any type of gathering must be attended by members of the same household only.
This is not the first time Chinese police raided religious gatherings in the name of implementing COVID-19 restrictions in Guiyang. Back in November 2020, the Huaxi District Bureau of Ethnic and Religious Affairs together with Chinese police raided a religious gathering of the Enze Fellowship led by pastor Dai Yankun and captured him and 10 other church members without presenting proper documents.
Dai was detained on unspecified grounds and was later moved to an undisclosed location. Captured church members were investigated and interrogated by Chinese police and forced to disclose their personal information and information on church funding.
(Edited to correct Zhang Chunlei's name. It was originally misspelled as Chulei.)