Authorities forcibly took over and looted True Jesus Church in Henan’s Shangqiu city, arresting its director and detaining her for 15 days.
On January 4, 2019, led by the deputy governor of Zhecheng county, local officials, SWAT and anti-riot police, along with plainclothes police officers, arrived at True Jesus Church in Anping town, under the jurisdiction of Shangqiu city in central China’s Henan Province. The group came in 60 vehicles and blocked off the intersections leading to the church. The authorities claimed that the church was in contact with foreign countries, which made it illegal and thus should be shut down.
To prevent the authorities from invading the church, more than 60 believers – who had already been guarding the church for over three months – used benches to barricade the entrance. Unable to break in, the authorities ordered over 100 plainclothes officers to topple the wire netting fence on the church’s east side and stormed into the church.
“As soon as they entered the church, they smashed the donation box and pocketed the money, which totaled thousands of RMB. They also questioned us about where all of our church’s money was kept,” said a member of the congregation.
The believer added that unable to find the money, officials ordered plainclothes police officers to remove the surveillance cameras inside the church, and then violently attacked the believers. Fifteen believers were beaten to the ground, moaning in pain.
According to a witness of the events that day, a believer in her sixties, upon hearing the officials instructing police officers to vandalize and raid the church, she attempted to smash her head against a police car as a means of protest. Several police officers grabbed her and beat her up, fracturing her ribs. A believer in her fifties stepped forward to help her, but she, too, was violently attacked and suffered two cracked ribs. Some officers slapped in the face a partially paralyzed believer in her seventies and beaten brutally several other believers, making them lose consciousness for more than half an hour.
Some believers and onlookers took photos and videos of the scene. Afraid that their atrocities would be exposed, the police officers grabbed their cellphones, many were confiscated.
After perpetrating violence against the believers, the police dug a pit and buried the Bibles and hymnbooks that they had confiscated and removed almost everything from the church, including a large iron gate, 13 air conditioning units, audio speakers, washing machines, a computer, a piano worth 30,000 RMB (about $4,280), and other items. The police arrested church’s director who was detained for 15 days.
One local villager revealed that the construction of the church, covering an area of more than 10 mu (about 40,000 square meters), was completed in July 2018. It was built with the funds collected by believers for more than two million RMB (about $300,000). The government’s accusation that the church was in contact with foreign countries was merely an excuse for them to take over the church and convert it into a nursing home in the future. For now, the authorities have blocked off the church’s entrance with soil. The concrete ground in the yard has been completely destroyed, and the church has been damaged beyond recognition.