Three members of Early Rain Covenant Church (ERCC) in Chengdu, China, have been detained, and many families have been subject to forced evictions, according to a statement published by the church on 26 March.
On 24 March, police in Wenjiang District in Chengdu placed a deputy deacon of ERCC Jia Xuewei in administrative detention for 14 days. A preacher, Ding Shuqi, and another church member, Shu Qiong, were given the same punishment, also for ‘activities in the name of a banned social organisation’, a week earlier on 17 March.
Also on 17 March, Elder Li Yingqiang and his wife were forcibly taken by Wenjiang police to Deyang, another city in Sichuan province, without being given time to collect their two young children and keys to their rented accommodation.
On 21 March, Xiao Luobiao, another deputy deacon, found that his electricity meter had been stolen overnight. He and his wife Chen Yan were threatened with their belongings being thrown out unless they move out by 24 March. On 25 March, their family car was vandalised, with its tyres and windows damaged and insulting graffiti painted on the body of the vehicle.
In the statement published on 26 March, ERCC cited the experiences of six additional individuals/households who have also faced pressure to move. Mr Xiao’s family and three other ERCC households, who live in the same residential compound called ‘Languang Changdao’ in Shuangliu District, Chengdu, have been subject to particularly violent harassment: ‘The police, community grid and property management etc. have been using every conceivable means... They show a blatant disregard for the law and morality, and display the arrogance of power as well as imperious ignorance.’
A notice posted in a Wechat (China’s largest social media site) group on 24 March also conveys the mass surveillance and social hostility faced by religious communities in the area. In the notice sent by a community grid attendant from the Tongjiang Community in Shuangliu District, Chengdu, flat owners of ‘Languang Changdao’ are warned against letting to tenants who ‘organise illegal activities in the name of religion’. Owners are to take the initiative to break their leases if they realise their tenants are doing that, or they may face legal liability. The ‘unusual circumstances’ that owners should be looking out for include ‘frequent gatherings of people making noise such as reading scriptures, praying and singing songs’.
ERCC described the ‘crazy wave of repression’ the church is currently experiencing in a prayer request dated 19 March, saying all of its preachers had been either detained, forced to leave Chengdu, or placed under surveillance; all of its deacons had been heavily guarded and prevented from leaving their homes to serve at services; and many members had been threatened, intimidated and harassed.
Elsewhere, there are recent developments in two ‘fraud’ cases involving a large number of house church leaders. Linfen Golden Lampstand Church announced that Pastors Wang Xiaoguang and Yang Rongli and 10 church workers will be standing trial at Yaodu District court in Linfen, Shanxi, on 29 March. The pastors and five workers have been detained since August 2021; the other five workers were released on bail. Xi’an Church of Abundance announced that Pastors Lian Changnian and Lian Xuliang and Preacher Fu Juan were formally arrested on 22 March; all three have been detained since August 2022.
CSW’s CEO Scot Bower said: ‘Even by the standards of the Chinese Communist Party, we are shocked by these arbitrary detentions and gang-style attacks that the authorities in Chengdu have launched against ERCC members and families. More than four years have passed since the arrest of Pastor Wang Yi, and their crackdown on the church is continuing and the authorities have now resorted to abhorrent illegal measures in order to force church leaders and members to give up their right to practise their faith in public or even in private. It is totally unacceptable that members of independent religious groups should be treated in such a way. We call on the Chinese government to immediately release the members and leaders of Early Rain Covenant Church, Golden Lampstand Church, and the Church of Abundance, and all those who have been detained on account of their peaceful religious activities. The international community must hold China to account for its blatant violations of human dignity, freedom of religion or belief and other basic human rights.’
Note to Editors:
- Administrative detention refers to the arrest and detention of individuals, usually for up to 20 days, by the Chinese authorities without trial as a punishment for minor public-order offenses. It is not unusual for someone to be transferred to criminal detention or residential surveillance at a designated location (RSDL) after they have completed their administrative detention. Time spent in administrative detention does not count towards any jail term if the individual is later formally charged, tried and convicted of a crime.