A government-sanctioned Protestant church in Fujian was persecuted by authorities for inviting preachers from another province to deliver sermons.
On September 3, 2017, the Luohua Church, a Protestant church that belongs to the Three-Self Patriotic Movement, in Fujian’s Gutian county, invited two preachers from Zhejiang Province to give sermons at the church. The police deployed over 20 officers and surrounded the church as soon as they learned about this.
There were about 80 members of the congregation at the church who were disturbed by the police actions. One believer stood up and asked what was going on. According to eyewitnesses, a police captain started shouting and even swung his fist at him, but was blocked by other believers. “We don’t have to hit gamblers and thieves, but only the people who believe in God. Only by striking them can we solve the problem!” yelled the captain. He then ordered his subordinates to tie up the believers who were rebutting. The two preachers from Zhejiang took advantage of the chaos and fled the scene.
An informed source revealed that the church’s leader was then taken to the Bureau of Religious Affairs where he was threatened that inviting preachers from other locations was illegal, and if he did this again, he would be arrested, and the church would be shut down. Seven believers who were detained were taken to the State Security Bureau and interrogated. They were not released until after 3:00 p.m.
On May 27, 2018, the two preachers from Zhejiang took a risk by visiting another Three-Self church in Gutian to deliver sermons. After being informed about this, the director of the local Bureau of Religious Affairs gathered more than a dozen police officers to capture the preachers but failed, because, notified by believers, the preachers managed to escape again.
Even the state-approved Three-Self Church is being subjected to increasingly severe restrictions and persecution. Unless a permit is obtained, they are forbidden from inviting preachers from out of town, and believers are prohibited to go elsewhere for sermons. Authorities are also tightly controlling the content and length of sermons: pastors who exceed the prescribed limits are stripped of their credentials, and may even be arrested.
Reported by Lin Yijiang