The Chinese government has continued its brutal crackdown on one of the country’s largest churches. Authorities arrested an additional 44 members of the Early Rain Covenant Church at two venues Feb. 24, including 11 children.
Multiple reports confirmed one of those arrested was just two months old. According to China Aid, pregnant women were also arrested, and Senior Pastor Wang Yi’s own 74-year-old mother was beaten by police. The group was detained at Chengdu Police Station and had their cell phones taken off them.
During their period of detention, the group was not given any access to food and many of them were not released until the early hours of the morning.
More from China Aid:
“So far, 11 people have been sentenced to administrative detention. Those sentenced to a 14-day detention are Zhang Jianqing, Wei Zhixue, Zhu Xiaoguang, Hou Hong’en, Luo Zhipeng, Yang Duli, Zhang Guanya, Huang Guangtai, and Tang Chunliang. Both A and Yang Jian were given a 10-day detention sentence.”
One staff member of the church was detained after coming to the defense of those who had been arrested.
“Brother A-Xin, a translator, after hearing about children, elderly people, and pregnant women being arrested at home gatherings and about Wang Yi’s 74-year-old mother being insulted and beaten, took up his pen and began writing furiously,” a Facebook post read on the Pray for Early Covenant Rain Church group page. “In the evening, he was arrested at his home by nearly ten police officers.”
At least 44 members of Early Rain Covenant Church detained for Sunday worship on February 24 including 11 children with one 2-month old baby. 11 confirmed with punishment of administrative detention from 10 to 14 days. Arbitrary arrest continues. Walk with the these Persecuted pic.twitter.com/D3pQfiLsjt
— Bob Fu傅希秋 (@BobFu4China) February 25, 2019
The post continued, noting shocking details of the arrests:
“By 8:00 p.m. last night, 44 members had been arrested during the ‘2/24’ Sabbath raids. Of those arrested, 11 were children. The youngest to be detained and taken to the police station was a little more than two months old. Tang Chunliang and his wife were hit in the face by a plainclothes police officer at the police station. Some, including children, did not eat anything. Some were not released until 2:00 a.m. Tired children slept on ice-cold tables and floors. Others were not released until 6:00 a.m.”
Degrading treatment from police officers
One woman from the church, whose husband is currently being held in the detention center, told her horrifying story of being harassed and threatened by police officers.
“I just went to see sister A to give her a stroller,” she wrote. “I originally planned to take my child to her home to play for a little while. The community police wouldn’t let me stay at her home.”
Then, a police officer showed up and told the woman that she was technically in custody herself, and was thus not allowed to go to visit her friend.
“Sister A had given me a specialty snack from her hometown, but the director wouldn’t let me take it with me,” she wrote.
Then, things got extremely abusive.
“He even grabbed my neck and told me to stomp on [the snack],” she continued. “I firmly refused to stomp on it. He then said that if I didn’t stomp on it, he would throw it into the face of my child right in front of me. He also said that if I didn’t listen to them, he would put me in detention and send my child to a welfare institution. He said, ‘Your husband is still in detention. Do you think I won’t keep him there? I will send him to live with people with AIDS.’ Then he said, ‘If you don’t behave this weekend, if you give me a hard time, I won’t be as nice to you as I was today. If this happens again, you will be taken directly to the police station.’”
The persecution has become so severe that the members of Covenant Rain have been forced to turn their homes into places of worship.
“In China today, Christians from Early Rain Covenant Church experiencing this severe persecution have turned their private, family spaces into places for the proclamation of their faith,” read an update on the Facebook page, along with some pictures of these spaces of worship.
The treatment of these brothers and sisters in Christ has become absolutely brutal, and we support them in any way we can, particularly through the covering of prayer.