By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent BosNewsLife
BEIJING, CHINA (BosNewsLife)– Chinese security forces have raided several house churches in China’s capital Beijing where they confiscated Bibles and in at least one case destroyed equipment, well-informed Christians told BosNewsLife.
Bob Fu, a former Chinese house church pastor who now leads advocacy group China Aid Association (CAA) said more than 20 people, including police officers and religious affairs officials, were involved in the operations since last Sunday, November 17.
At least three house church meetings were reportedly broken up by police for being “illegal” gatherings.
“They burst into a meeting of 25 believers where they began breaking up the meeting, destroying installations in the room, and removing four or five cases of Bibles,” Fu said in comments Friday, November 22.
A local radio station quoted officials as saying that “due to security concerns believers are not allowed to meet in private.”
Among those being targeted was the Harvest Church, where some 20 people from Gaoliying Police Station forcibly dispersed the believers, and searched the rooms for religious items, said a church representative, identified as Mr. He.
“More than 20 of them came in…while we were meeting. As soon as they
arrived, they started removing computers, projector and stools from the room,” He said in published remarks obtained by BosNewsLife.
“Their [police] chief said that we were not welcome, and [they] took all our books, hymnals and Bibles. These past few days, we’ve been getting ready to negotiate with them and get our things back.”
Another church member, identified only as Ms. Xing for security reasons, said police “were behaving rude and outrageous”. They allegedly entered the room, shouting “Stay seated!” and ”Don’t move!”
“[They were] like bandits, even grabbing the Bibles we were holding in our own hands,” Ms. Xing added. “And, when we tried to make a video recording of them with our cell phones, they grabbed the phones and deleted everything.”
Fu told BosNewsLife that “house church believers hold small meetings Throughout Beijing, and most of the time, the authorities don’t interfere.”
However he quoted a police officer as saying that at least one meeting meeting was broken up because “there was a relatively large number of people there there were children and elderly people.”
If something “dangerous happened” the police officer reportedly said, “they themselves cannot be held responsible.”
Mr. He said “many” house churches have met a similar fate amid a larger crackdown on devoted Christians in China.
Additionally Beijing’s Chenguang Bookstore, which mainly sells religious literature, “was subjected to multiple inspections from different government departments around the October 1 National Day holiday and told that they could be shut down,” said Fu, who has contacts in the area.
Church observers say Communist governments, including China’s leadership, are one of two main powers in the world who persecute Christians. The other source of persecution are hard-line Islamist groups, experts say.
China denied wrongdoing, saying Christians are free to worship within the state backed churches.
Many of the estimated 130 million Christians in China, however, prefer to worship outside state control in what are known as ‘house churches’ as they gather in homes of individual believers or other non official church buildings.
“The persecution of Christians is getting worse,” warned Fu, whose organization is
supporting reportedly persecuted Christians in Communist-run China.
The latest report comes just days after more than twenty lawyers announced they had united to defend Pastor Zhang Zhaojie, of the Nanle County Christian Church, and 25 other detained church members.
Local Christians of the major Christian church in China’s central Henan province told BosNewsLife earlier that their congregation has been “paralyzed” since the crackdown began last weekend.
The detentions comes despite China’s Communist Party promising earlier this month to abolish labor camps where Christians are known to have been held along with other prisoners of conscience.
Christians view the crackdown as an official warning that the announced reforms do not mean China’s atheistic oriented government will allow unlimited religious freedom.