A group of Chinese Christians who were jailed for attending a Malaysian conference have been released.
Five Chinese members of a Christian house church in Shanxi Province who were taken by authorities for "illegally crossing the national border" to attend a Christian conference in Malaysia have been released from captivity.
According to the Christian Post, members of Xuncheng Reformed Church in Taiyuan city received the five Chinese Christians at the detention center on Wednesday. Members of the group were identified as Zhang Ligong, Wang Runyun, Wang Shiqiang, Zhang Yaowen and Song Shoushan.
ChinaAid reported that the five Chinese Christians were arrested in July 2021 for attending the "KL2020 Gospel and Culture" conference, which was hosted by Chinese Indonesian Pastor Stephen Tong and featured speeches by best selling author Pastor Tim Keller and emeritus professor of New Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School and co-founder of The Gospel Coalition, D.A. Carson.
The small group traveled together to Malaysia to attend the conference that took place on January 28 to 31, 2020. They legally flew to Malaysia with valid passports but were later sentenced by Chinese authorities to prison for six to eight months and fined up to $475. Chinese authorities have been targeting the Xuncheng Church in recent years, subjecting its leaders and members to constant harassment and detention.
Global persecution watchdog Open Doors USA estimates that there are over 97 million Christians in China, most of which worship in what the Chinese communist government calls "illegal" and unregistered underground house churches. The group warned that these house churches have been "forced to split up into small groups and gather in different locations, keeping a low profile so as not to be detected by the sub-district officer or neighborhood committee."
The Chinese communist government particularly heightened restrictions over house churches during the COVID pandemic, using the coronavirus as an excuse to prohibit people from meeting face to face. Amidst the recent outbreak of COVID in China, Shanghai extended its lockdown on residential communities in the large, populous city.
According to Radio Free Asia, Chinese authorities in Shanghai announced an extension of the citywide lockdowns as they assess mass COVID test results. This left residents facing more food shortages and lack of access to medical treatment. Since March 28, the city has been placed under a two-stage lockdown as part of its "zero COVID" policy.
"The city will continue to implement closures and controls, and continue to strictly implement the stay-home policy except in the case of people seeking medical treatment due to illness," the Shanghai municipal government announced on April 4 via its official Weibo account.
The lockdowns in Shanghai are incredibly strict, with armed police patrolling the streets of residential communities. Zhang Jin, an academic who lives in Puxi on the west side of the Huangpu river, reported witnessing armed police forces doing the rounds in residential streets.
"There are special police with guns stationed at the gates of our community, because the older people on the neighborhood committee can't keep control of the situation," Zhang reported. "They're afraid there'll be some kind of incident in Shanghai, which would be a big deal, so they've been brought in to keep order."