Police in the southeastern Chinese city of Xiamen raided a Protestant church gathering at the weekend and detained at least nine people.
A report from Radio Free Asia said hundreds of state security police and officials from Xiamen’s religious affairs bureau raided a meeting of the unofficial Xingguang Church on Sunday, May 3.
“The state security police came banging at the door, then they kicked it down and dragged those in the way outside the doorway,” the RFA quoted Pastor Yang Xibo.
Yang said the meeting was held in a private residence and the police came in without a warrant.
A church member, who declined to be named, said it should be illegal for authorities to break into private residential property and detain people.
Yang said the raid was most likely due to the church’s refusal to join the Three-Self Patriotic Association, a state-aligned body in charge of Protestant Christians in China.
A video shared by Yang showed the police pressing members’ heads down to the ground while others ordered neighbors to stop filming the incident.
The raid came amid a nationwide crackdown on religious worship.
The RFA report noted that the administration of President Xi Jinping has repeatedly warned against the “infiltration of Western hostile forces” in the form of religion.
In a statement, the U.S.-based nonprofit International Christian Concern (ICC) said China has resumed its crackdown against Christian groups after the threat of the coronavirus pandemic started to decline.
“We have seen an increased number of church demolitions and cross removals on state-sanctioned churches across China,” said Gina Goh, ICC’s regional manager for Southeast Asia.
“It is deplorable that the local authorities not only conducted this raid without proper procedure but deployed excessive use of force against church members and bystanders,” she said.
China is home to an estimated 68 million Protestants, of whom 23 million worship in state-affiliated churches, and some nine million Catholics, 5.7 million of whom are in state-aligned organizations.