China: Church members harassed, detained at 5th anniversary of crackdown

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Authorities in Chengdu in China’s Sichuan Province resorted to various illegal measures to prevent leaders and members of Early Rain Covenant

Preacher Dai Zhichao and his wife. Source: China Aid

Church (ERCC) from taking part in an online prayer meeting on 9 December 2023, according to a post on the church’s Telegram channel.

The meeting was held to mark the fifth anniversary of a crackdown against the church in which over 100 members were arrested. The police operation lasted for about six months, and the church’s Pastor Wang Yi and Elder Qin Defu were criminally detained on trumped-up charges and later sentenced to nine and four years in prison respectively. Pastor Wang is still serving his sentence and the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention has adopted the opinion that his detention is arbitrary.

Ahead of this year’s event on 9 December, church members reported being subjected to power cuts, telephone warnings, door-to-door threats, stalking, the stationing of police outside family homes, and being forcibly taking to police stations, all in an effort to prevent or deter them from participating.

On 10 December – as the world celebrated International Human Rights Day, which marked the 75th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) – 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’.

To mark Human Rights Day, the EU Delegation to China issued a statement on China’s social media site Weibo calling for the unconditional release of human rights defenders including Pastor Wang Yi, another house church leader Zhang Chunlei, lawyers Gao Zhisheng and Chang Weiping, Uyghur scholar Ilham Tohti and Christian journalist Zhang Zhan.

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.’ — Christian Solidarity Worldwide