By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent Worthy News
(Worthy News) - Chinese authorities have detained several members of the independent Presbyterianism Early Rain Qingcaodi Church in southwest China on “baseless fraud” charges, Christians say.
Police reportedly arrested church elder Wu Jiannan and his wife with co-workers Liu Wuyi, Liu Yongbo, and Lan Enguang in the city of Sichuan in China’s Sichuan Province.
Retired pastor Hao Mingchang and his wife Yang Yufeng were also among those detained last week, November 17, according to Christians familiar with the situation.
“Elder Wu Jiannan and his wife were released in the evening. The others remain in detention at the time [of writing],” said Yu Bing, who reports for advocacy group China Aid.
Early Rain Qingcaodi Church, also referred to as simply Qingcaodi, is a separate member of the Western China Reformed Presbytery.
The church’s former elder Hao Ming was one of the pastors who signed the “Joint Statement: A Declaration for the Sake of Christian Faith.”
The statement supported the faith expressed by underground churches that Pastor Wang Yi launched in 2018.
After the declaration, police raided the main Early Rain Covenant Church and its related Qingcaodi congregation, Christians said.
“They broke into the church, expelled the Christians, and posted a banning notice on the gate issued by the Religious Affairs Bureau and Civil Affairs Bureau,” recalled Yu.
Since December 11, 2018, police officers have kept pressuring the landlord to terminate the lease and threatened to fine him $31,358 in local currency, according to Christians.
They also ordered Qingcaodi to move out of their building by December 12, Worthy News learned. “Elders rejected the unreasonable demand and told officers the church would hold their next Sunday service as usual in the building,” Yu said.
“In the evening of December 12, eight police officers broke into the church and expelled the Bible study group.
Then they posted a banning notice issued by Religious Affairs Bureau,” Yu added.
On March 25, 2021, the Sichuan Province Department of Civil Affairs reportedly published a list of illegal organizations.
The Chengdu Early Rain Covenant Church and Qingcaodi were both on the list, according to local Christians.
The actions against the provincial churches come amid a broader reported crackdown on devoted Christians under Chinese autocratic President Xi Jinping.
This month officials enshrined Xi in his Chinese Communist Party’s official firmament of era-defining leaders to a stature alongside Mao Zedong, the founder of the country’s Communist rule. Xi is also next to Deng Xiaoping, viewed as the chief architect of China’s economic takeoff.