There is a major assault on unregistered house churches in China’s Jilin province, a Christian persecution watchdog group said today.
The amount of "man-power, coordination and planning" involved in the recent raid of 60 church meetings “simultaneously shows this effort came from high levels of the Chinese government,” according to Voice of the Martyrs spokesman Todd Nettleton.
In a statement released today by the Voice of the Martyrs (VOM), the watchdog group reported that on May 22, during Sunday worship time, police and Public Security Bureau (PSB) officers simultaneously raided approximately 60 house churches in Changchun, the capital city of Jilin province in northeastern China.
More than 500 house church believers and leaders were taken into custody, according to VOM's report. While most were released after 24 to 48 hours of interrogation, approximately 40 leaders are still being held in different detention centers, VOM added.
Five days after the major raids, approximately 60 additional house church leaders were arrested at Jiutai - a suburban city near Changchun - and have remained in custody since then.
One church pastor, 58-year-old Zhao Dianru was reportedly released Monday, June 6, after 15 days of “administrative detention.” According to VOM, Zhao’s arrest document accused him of “using other means to instigate and disturb social stability,” but did not mention religion or church activities. VOM contacts in that area say that about 20 boxes of Christian books were confiscated during the police raid.
VOM sources have informed the persecution watchdog group that a large portion of the raided house church groups are made up of university students, professors and other young intellectuals. It is believed that the recent raids are part of a coordinated campaign to eliminate house church influence in the university areas.
"China’s new law on religion, the Provisions on Religious Affairs, took effect March 1," VOM stated in its report. "Some believed the new law would lead to less restriction on unregistered churches, but these large-scale raids and arrests seem to show otherwise."
At the conclusion of the VOM statement, the group's spokesman urged Christians around the world to protest these illegal detentions.
“These Christians are not a threat to the Chinese government and they have not committed a crime," Nettleton declared. "It’s time for China to live up to the commitments and treaties it has signed on religious freedom.”
VOM noted in its report that the raided house churches are not all part of the same group and are not affiliated with any of China’s major house church networks, but they are independent house churches with thousands of believers who choose not to register their Christian activities with the Communist government.