Updated: August 25, 2021 08:46 AM GMT
Chengdu police detain members of the Early Rain Covenant Church after breaking into the home of church member Dai Zhichao on Aug. 22. (Photo: Radio Free Asia)
Chinese police have raided a meeting of an independent Protestant church in Sichuan province, jailed two church members and placed several minors under custody.
Policemen moved and disrupted a gathering of the members of the Early Rain Covenant Church in provincial capital Chengdu on Aug. 22, reported Radio Free Asia (RFA).
Following the raid, police placed meeting host Dai Zhichao and church member He Shan under custodial detention for 14 days.
Members had gathered for their Sunday meeting when state security police and officials from the municipal religious affairs bureau conducted the raid, said a church member only identified as Li.
"At around 11am on Aug. 22, during the Sunday meeting of the Chengdu Early Rain Covenant Church, the [group] was illegally assaulted by police from the Mengchaiwan police station in Chenghua district," Li said. "More than a dozen children were taken away."
RFA said it has seen video clips that showed police breaking into Dai's home without showing a search warrant.
But the police were very rude, forced their way in through the door and took everyone's details, including the children's
"Dai Zhichao's arm has been injured and his phone taken from him," one church member said while filming the incident. "They dragged us out of the door and took us away."
An Early Rain member who declined to be named said around a dozen police officers broke up the meeting,
"A group of brothers and sisters had gathered at a brother's house, and the police came, saying that they had received reports from the public that there was an illegal assembly taking place," he said.
"The brothers and sisters opened the door and asked the police to show a search warrant or they wouldn't let them enter. But the police were very rude, forced their way in through the door and took everyone's details, including the children's."
A police officer reportedly kicked church member Shu Qiong in the leg after she protested when police hit her eight-year-old son over the head with a water bottle.
The children were taken to a police station for questioning but were released later in the evening. Since then they have been incommunicado, a church member said.
The Early Rain Church issued a statement on Facebook expressing concerns over the arrests and requesting all to pray for the detainees.
Video footage of the raid posted on Facebook drew more than 27,000 views and more than 400 shares.
The Early Rain Church, which has about 500 members, has faced pressure and abuses from the government for years.
It first began meetings of small groups back in 2006 and became an independent church in 2008, according to China Partnership. Pastor Wang Yi, who founded the church, was elected and installed as its head pastor in 2011.
Rights groups reported that church members detained in raids in December 2018 and later released were subjected to beatings by police
Wang was detained by police in Chengdu on Dec. 14, 2018, along with dozens of church members. More than a year later, on Dec. 30, 2019, Wang was sentenced to nine years in jail.
He was found guilty of "incitement to subvert state power" and of "running an illegal business" in a secret trial by the Chengdu Intermediate People's Court, RFA reported.
Rights groups reported that church members detained in raids in December 2018 and later released were subjected to beatings by police while they were tied to a chair and starved without food and water for 24 hours
As the Chinese Communist Party adopted repressive new regulations on religious affairs in early 2018 leading to an intensified crackdown on unregistered churches and religious organizations, about 116 pastors including Wang Yi signed a statement condemning “unjust actions” by the regime.
It is believed the statement drew the ire of the authorities against Wang and the Early Rain Church.