Chinese police launched a massive raid on house churches in Changchun, the capital city of the Jilin province in the northeastern part of the country, detaining 500 and holding 40 leaders three weeks later, say religious freedom activists with the Voice of the Martyrs
On May 22, during Sunday worship time, police and Public Security Bureau officers simultaneously raided approximately 60 house churches. While most of those detained were released after 24 to 48 hours of interrogation, approximately 40 leaders are still being held in different detention centers.
“This is clearly a major assault on unregistered house churches in Jilin province,” said Todd Nettleton, director of news services for the Voice of the Martyrs. “The amount of man-power, coordination and planning involved in raiding 60 church meetings simultaneously shows this effort came from high levels of the Chinese government.”
Five days after the major raids, approximately 60 additional house church leaders were arrested at Jiutai, a suburban city near Changchun. Most of the 60 leaders are still in custody.
One church pastor, Zhao Dianru, 58, was released Monday after 15 days of “administrative detention.” Zhao’s arrest document accused him of “using other means to instigate and disturb social stability,” but did not mention religion or church activities. According to reliable contacts in that area, about 20 boxes of Christian books were confiscated during the police raid.
VOM sources say that university students, professors and other young intellectuals make up a large portion of the raided house church groups. It’s believed this is a coordinated campaign to eliminate house church influence in the university areas.
China’s new law on religion, the Provisions on Religious Affairs, took effect March 1. Some believed the new law would lead to less restriction on unregistered churches, but these large-scale raids and arrests seem to show otherwise.
The raided house churches are not all part of the same group, and are not affiliated with any of China’s major house church networks. They are independent house churches with thousands of believers who choose not to register their Christian activities with the Communist government.
“We urge Christians around the world to protest these illegal detentions,” said Nettleton. “These Christians are not a threat to the Chinese government and they have not committed a crime. It’s time for China to live up to the commitments and treaties it has signed on religious freedom.”
VOM advises letters of protest can be sent to the Chinese Embassy in Washington at the following address:
Ambassador Yang Jiechi
Embassy of the People’s Republic of China
2300 Connecticut Ave NW,
Director of Religious Affairs: (202) 328-2512