Chinese authorities have raided a small in-person gathering of Early Rain Covenant Church members in Chenghua District in the Sichuan Province's Chengdu. Someone had sent in a tip to local authorities, who proceeded to break apart the meeting and detain its attendees, which included children.
"On the morning of August 22, 2021, during Sunday worship at Early Rain Covenant Church in Chengdu, police illegally raided the Tashui Small Group as they were meeting offline in Chenghua District," an August 21 update on the Facebook page of Pray for Early Rain Covenant Church read. "The police claimed to have received a call reporting an illegal gathering there."
According to CBN News, the update also reported that Pastoral intern Dai Zhichao sought a police warrant from the Chinese authorities, who he said were "rough" and had ordered to see the people's ID cards. In the commotion, Dai's arm was scratched and his mobile phone was confiscated. However, the Chinese authorities allowed the attendees of the gathering to have lunch before they were taken away.
After the meal, Chinese authorities from the Chenghua District Mengzhuiwan Police Station arrested almost all the attendees at the small gathering of the Early Rain Covenant Church, which included over 10 children. Only an 80 year old woman, a blind man, and his wife and brother were not taken by the police.
An August 23 update from the Pray for Early Rain Covenant Church Facebook page revealed that Dai and his brother He Shan were placed in administrative detention for 14 days and are being fined 1,000 RMB or about $154.
Religious persecution of Christians in China remains rampant. According to persecution watchdog International Christian Concern (ICC), detainees were often being physically beaten and abused by Chinese authorities while under their custody.
Children were reportedly hit on the head if caught playing. The youth are banned from attending Christian religious activities in China. Instead, children aged 6 to 14 years old are required to join "Young Pioneers of China," which is sponsored by the Communist Youth League. Here, they are being taught the communist state's ideologies with the aim of preventing them from joining other religions and grow up to be detractors of the Chinese Communist Party.
"No one under the age of 18 is allowed in a church building, or they will face serious consequences," China Aid President Bob Fu said of the "war against religious education for children. "In every school, children are not allowed to get any religious education or participate in religious activities."
Chinese authorities continue to crack down on house churches that gather to pray or read the bible together. These gatherings are tagged by police as "illegal religious activities," attendants of which are taken, detained, and often charged with crimes.
Gina Goh, ICC's Regional Manager for Southeast Asia described it as a "worrying trend" as house churches continue to be subjected to "harassment" in the name of "law enforcement." She also described how the "legally flawed Revised Regulations on Religious Affairs" has been used by Chinese authorities to crackdown on house churches and gatherings of religious minorities.