Source: Direct Reports from China
Date: May 25, 2018
In the morning of March 22, 2018, over 100 police officers and officials from various departments surrounded a house church established by Koreans in the Yirenwaitan residential community in the county-level city of Chuxiong, Yunan. The police sealed off the church, drove away its believers and arrested the pastor, the elder, and seven deacons of the church.
According to Deacon Chen who was among those brought in for interrogation, at 10 a.m., more than 100 local police officers carried guns and drove to the church in over ten big police cars with siren blaring and blocked the streets in the Yirenwaitan villa area. Without producing any official documents, they forcibly broke into the house rented by the church.
“At 10 o’clock that morning, about a dozen brothers and sisters from the elder university were studying the Bible on the third floor when dozens of police officers carrying guns suddenly broke into the room,” deacon Chen recalled. “Without showing any credentials, they demanded us to freeze and not move. Later, the police ordered the same to all the brothers and sisters in this 4-story building, warning us not to take photos, shoot videos or make recordings. They later interrogated every one of us about when the church was established, how long we have believed in God, our positions in the church, etc. They also inspected and registered the church’s property. ‘Your pastor is a South Korean citizen, so this is foreign infiltration into China,’ said one of the ethnic and religious affairs bureau’s employees when they found some materials in Korean.”
In the end, the police shut the church down under the pretext that “the church wasn’t registered, and the meeting place is illegal.” They also took away the seven deacons and interrogated them for over two hours. In the end, the police had to release them since they did not say anything. There, they saw that elder Park (male, about 40-year-old) and pastor Kim (Park’s wife, about 40-year-old) were also being interrogated, so they realized that the police had arrested them earlier.
Talking about the fact that the authorities sealed off the church under the pretext that “the church wasn’t registered, and the meeting place is illegal,” Deacon Chen said that they went to the relevant department for registration several times, but the employees there said that they must accept the Three-Self Church’s leadership. “This is unreasonable. Our church has always been for the separation of church and state,” says Deacon Chen. “The Three-Self Church follows the leadership of the Communist Party government and it is controlled by the CCP [Chinese Communist Party]. We believers in the Lord Jesus ought to obey God rather than man. We are not reluctant to register; we just can’t accept unreasonable registration.”
Deacon Chen accused the government of knowingly violating the law. “The police unexpectedly investigated our church when there was no evidence that we had broken the law. Failing to find anything illegal, they still sealed off our church. They, in fact, are going against the law under the banner of law enforcement.”
“Just a few days before March 22, when the church was closed down, several strangers came to our church and attended the sermon,” continues Deacon Chen. “I overheard them saying in astonishment that there was actually such an organization in this place and that it had been here for more than ten years. Unexpectedly, several days later, the church was seized. Those strangers may have been sent by the Yunnan United Front Work Department to go undercover to visit the church.”
Since its seizure on March 22, the local police station has been closely monitoring the church by deploying agents to guard the church on a daily basis. The pastor and the elder were released, but for fear of getting arrested again, they had to flee.