By BosNewsLife Asia Service
BEIJING, CHINA (BosNewsLife)-- Christians in several parts of China were behind bars on Christmas Day after a police crackdown on worship services and Bible study, a Christian advocacy group said Thursday, December 25.
In one of the latest incidents, officials of the country's main law enforcement agency, the Public Security Bureau (PSB), raided a house church Christmas party in Yucheng county of Henan province on Christmas Eve, detaining nine Christian women, said US-based China Aid Association (CAA), which has close contacts with the believers.
They, "were reenacting the nativity [scene] on the street, and police charged the women with “organizing illegal religious activities. " The women, including Yue Zengyun who led the group, are currently being held at Detention Center of Yucheng County,” CAA told BosNewsLife. "The PSB officers demanded the family members pay a fine for the women to be released," the group said.
The raid came after authorities in Anhui province reportedly seized a house church building and a related school in Dianlong village providing Bible studies the previous day.
Tensions in began December 22 when security forces of several agencies and Religious Affairs officials interrupted a Bible training gathering affiliated with the house church in Dianlong village , arresting 19 students and two pastors, CAA said. They were released several hours later after they were interrogated, "forcibly photographed and videotaped" the group said, adding that several books were confiscated.
The next day, December 23, authorities forced church leaders Zhu Jianguo and Cheng Donglai to send the students home and "read a statement of the government in which they claimed they were notified that Cheng Donglai illegally ran a school, then pronounced the school abolished," CAA said in a statement. "Government officials also announced that they would demolish or sell the building used for the Bible training."
Officials allegedly photographed and videotaped all materials at the site and threatened church members that anyone touching the materials would be in punished. "The County Bureau of Religion posted sealing tape to shut off the house church building," CAA explained. Both church leaders reportedly expect to be summoned by local police soon.
Earlier in on December 21, a house church in Yili city in China's Xinjiang Autonomous Region, was reportedly banned. "Pastor Xie Xianhua, who leads the church, was warned he could face arrest if he continued his house church service," CAA said, adding that it is still investigating the case.
The latest raids are viewed as a setback for rights activists who had urged China to improve religious rights after the recent Beijing Olympic Games. China's government has denied human rights abuses, saying it only targets "illegal groups" and what it considers as "dangerous sects". It says China's up to 130 million Christians are free to worship with the state-backed churches.