A number of Christians have been injured after police raided a church in the Chinese city of Xiamen. Witnesses said the authorities swooped on Xingguang Church Sunday as members were worshipping, violently dispersing all of those present. One church member was reported to have sustained several significant injuries including two fractured ribs.
During the course of the raid, police officers confiscated mobile phones and broke a window and door lock as they forced entry into the church building. As the authorities began to detain many of the worshippers, congregants starting chanting "illegal!" at the top of their voices.
Xingguang is classed as an illegitimate "house church" or "underground church" by the Chinese government. According to those close to the situation, officials have been pressuring the church to join the state-sanctioned "Three Self Patriotic Association."
Local Christians also reported that police raided several other unregistered churches in Xiamen on the same day, sometimes violently.
Many pastors refuse to join the state-mandated denomination, knowing that they will be expected to tailor their services towards the worship of communism and the idolisation of President Xi Jinping.
Indeed, there have been many documented incidences of the authorities removing crosses, Bibles and other items of religious significance from three-self churches in a bid to stifle their worship and ensure that leaders are evangelising, first and foremost, about Chinese nationalism and the benefits of communist ideals.
Leaders who refuse to comply often face arrest and imprisonment. Last month, authorities detained Pastor Zhao Huaiguo of Bethel Church in Hunan Province, accusing him of "inciting subversion of state power." In reality, his only crime was refusing to join the state church.
Christian Solidarity Worldwide's chief executive Mervyn Thomas said: "The attack on Xingguang Church and others once again indicates the extent to which the Chinese authorities are willing to go to crack down on religion or belief in the country. The police's violent treatment of church members is unacceptable and typical of China's heavy handed and repressive response to anyone who espouses a belief which differs from that of the ruling Communist Party.
"We call on the Chinese authorities to cease all harassment of Xingguang Church, Bethel Church and other peaceful religious communities, ensuring that the right to freedom of religion or belief is upheld for all Chinese citizens. We further urge the international community to hold China to account for human rights violations in the country."