By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent BosNewsLife
BEIJING, CHINA (BosNewsLife)– Chinese police harassed female members from one of Beijing’s largest underground Protestant churches before releasing them and most of other Christians detained Sunday, April 17, a church member told BosNewsLife.
The well-informed Christian of the 1000-strong Shouwang Church cautioned however that at least “ten people are detained in different local police stations.”
They were among a group of some 30 members who were being detained Sunday morning, April 17, when they tried to pray outdoors, BosNewsLife reported earlier.
“I learned that some sisters have been severely humiliated and insulted,” the Christian said. Like many other churches, Shouwang Church often describes members as ‘sisters’ or ‘brothers’, a reference to the Biblical conceptthat Christians have one Heavenly Father in God.
The women, “few feel very depressed after they were released,” added the Christian, whose name BosNewsLife did not immediately release due to security concerns.
ELDERS UNDER HOUSE ARREST
She said elders of the church were unable to attend Sunday’s worship service as they have been out under house arrest. “I called one elder and learned that he has been put under house arrest over one week, never being able to leave his apartment. Another elder said that the policeman sat and lay too close to the door of his apartment, which made it absolutely impossible to open his door.”
But, “they all had peace,” she said, referring to their faith in Christ. He suggested that Chinese secret police “disturbed” the phone calls with church elders, “because we could hardly hear each others words except the buzzing noise” on the phone. “It seldom happened before when calling to China from my apartment.”
Hours earlier security forces arrested several leaders of the Shouwang Church, including Senior Pastor Jin Tianming and Pastor Li Xiaobai with his wife, before releasing them late Saturday and early Sunday, said China Aid Association (CAA), a Christian rights group.
Last Sunday, April 10, 169 church members were rounded up by police and held for up to 24 hours when they attempted to hold a worship service in a public plaza in western Beijing, CAA said.
CAA told BosNewsLife that Christians have also lost their homes and jobs. “Many members of the Shouwang Church, one of Beijing’s largest house churches with about 1,000 members, have been forced out of their homes by landlords who have come under intense pressure to evict them,” the group said in a statement.
CHURCH OPEN AIR MEETINGS
Shouwang Church has been holding open air meetings after being evicted by authorities who are reportedly wary to lose control over religion and the increasing number of Christians in the Communist-run nation.
Earlier this month church members were seen crying when the landlord told them they “can no longer worship at” Beijing’s “Old Story Restaurant”, where walls are lined with pictures of Chinese Party leaders shaking hands with former U.S. presidents.
The standoff comes at a time when the Chinese Communist government is stepping up control over what it views as groups potentially undermining the country’s one-party system — including thriving house churches — amid concerns that revolutions against autocratic leaders in the Arab world will encourage more open calls for political and religious freedoms in China.
There are believed to be at least tens of millions of Protestant Christians in China, divided between registered Catholic and Protestant denominations and the underground, “house “churches, such as Shouwang Church. Many of the house churches began as small Bible groups at homes of individual believers but soon grew into much largest congregations.
BREAKING NEWS: China Detains Dozens Of House Church Christians; Standoff Escalates