On May 21, 2017, the Public Security Bureau of the city of Jimo, Shandong Province, united multiple local police stations, dispatched more than twenty squad cars and over seventy armed police officers and raided a local Shouters meeting site, forcibly detaining forty-eight believers. Five co-workers of the Church were sentenced to prison terms.
Forty-eight believers gathered at the home of preacher Yang Guangqing (pseudonym). Responding to a tip-off from the head of the village committee, the city’s Public Security Bureau dispatched eight squad cars to the village. Officers, led by the Bureau’s vice director, first hid outside the village. Two plain-clothed police officers were later sent to scout out the meeting place. After confirming that the meeting was, indeed, taking place, other officers immediately charged inside. To prevent church members from escaping, two officers guarded the door, while four others wielded police batons and ordered all attendees to remain where they were.
Facing such a high number of attendees, the officers requested backup from other police stations. In no time, the Jimo police dispatched twenty additional squad cars, and more than seventy police officers with batons and handguns rushed into the building. The police recorded identification information of all attendees, one by one, then confiscated all their cell phones and religious books. Soon after, the police declared the meeting to be an “illegal assembly and a suspected threat to national security,” and forced all attendees into the squad cars and escorted them to various local police stations.
The police also raided and searched the homes of the preacher, Yang Guangqing, and a church co-worker, confiscating personal assets and Christian religious items. Onlookers of the scene commented, “Does the law not grant us freedom of religion? How can the police arrest people for believing in Jesus?”
On the night of May 21, four church members were released. The next day, twenty more members were freed; and nineteen others were let go a few days later. Five co-workers were sentenced to varying prison sentences, from eleven months to four years and sent to the Mopudong detention center. To date, three of them are still imprisoned.
The Shouters, named for their practice of calling the name of the Lord out loud, is a label used by the Chinese regime to designate a large variety of communities, including both the Christian religious movement known in the West as the Local Church and groups that are not part of the Local Church. During the Cultural Revolution, the Chinese Communist Party branded the movement as a “counterrevolutionary organization” and later listed it on a national register of xie jiao organizations, misleadingly translated as “cults.” Under Article 300 of the Chinese Criminal Code, being associated with such organizations automatically leads to arrest, detention or imprisonment.