Five years after a government crackdown in China saw over 100 members of the Early Rain Church arrested in Sichuan Province, authorities have prevented leaders and members from taking part in an online prayer meeting.
The gathering, scheduled for last Saturday, was being held to mark the fifth anniversary of the moment the pastor and other leaders were detained early one Sunday morning. The police operation against the church lasted for around six months, and the church’s Pastor Wang Yi and Elder Qin Defu were later sentenced to nine and four years in prison respectively. Pastor Wang is still serving his sentence.
Ahead of the commemoration this year, church members reported being subjected to power cuts, telephone warnings, and door-to-door threats, as well as stalking, the stationing of police outside family homes, and being forcibly taken to police stations.
ERCC confirmed that church subdeacon Jia Xuewei had been placed under administrative detention for 15 days, and that preacher Dai Zhichao had been criminally detained on suspicion of ‘picking quarrel and provoking trouble’.
They say it was an effort to deter them from participating.
The anniversary each year comes a day before International Human Rights Day, on 10 December, which this year marked the 75th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR).
CSW’s Founder President Mervyn Thomas said: "These mass police operations against house churches show the Chinese authorities’ utter contempt for universal and inalienable human rights, and they are particularly jarring as the world celebrates the establishment of the fundamental rights enshrined within the UDHR.
"We call for the immediate release of Dai Zhichao, Jia Xuewei, Pastor Wang Yi, and all others who have been detained or imprisoned on account of their religion or belief. We also welcome the EU’s statement and urge the international community to continue to highlight human rights violations in China and to hold the Chinese Communist Party to account for these at every possible opportunity."