Chinese officials detained several members of a congregation on Easter for participating in an online Zoom worship service, also arresting several key members of the heavily persecuted Early Rain Covenant Church (ERCC) in their homes.
The members of Early Rain Covenant Church were gathering on Zoom on Easter morning when Chinese security officials blocked the meeting on the Internet and took six members into custody from their homes, according to International Christian Concern.
The church has not been able to gather in person since the government clamped down on the church on December 9, 2018 and arrested their pastor, Wang Yi, and other leaders. This Easter, the church was conducting an online worship session, when suddenly six leaders were taken by the Public Security Bureau from their homes.
Early Rain’s Pastor, Wang Yi, last year was sentenced to nine years in prison, accused of “inciting subversion of state power” and “illegal business operations,” although his only crime was to preach the gospel in an unregistered church.
A church member told ICC of the Easter meeting, “At that time I was also in the Zoom call, but there was a long period of time where I did not hear a thing. I thought it’s the network connection issue at first, but I soon heard a quarrel erupt. Our coworker Wang Jun was questioning some people, [saying], ‘Who are you to do this [to us]?’”
Church members Wang, Guo Haigang, Wu Wuqing, Jia Xuewei, Zhang Jianqing and Zhang Xudong were detained and later released, ICC reported.
Zhang Jiangqing reportedly was warned by police, “Don’t participate in already banned [religious] activities anymore! Don’t listen to Pastor [Wang]’s sermons anymore! If you do this again, we will deal with it seriously and take you away!”
Gina Goh, ICC’s Regional Manager for Southeast Asia, said China’s action warrant an international response.
“It is such a shame that the Chinese government has not once stopped its persecution of ERCC,” Goh said. “Ever since the … crackdown in 2018, local authorities have continued to monitor and harass ERCC members, with the hope that the church will disperse itself. In a time when the Chinese people are suffering from the COVID-19 pandemic, the heartless regime chose to inflict more trouble on its citizens. The UN should immediately suspend China’s appointment to the Human Rights Council for its lack of respect for human rights.”