12 house church leaders were arrested and detained by Chinese police in Xinjiang during a Christmas gathering.
On Dec. 25, 200 police officers and officials from Religious Affairs Bureau with 17 police vehicles raided a house church located at a rented commercial facility at downtown Ma Na Si County, Xinjiang Autonomous Region, according to eyewitness reports obtained by the U.S.-based Chinese persecution watchdog China Aid Association (CAA) Wednesday.
Half an hour after the officials' arrival, 12 leaders were arrested for "illegal religious gathering," a female pastor at the meeting told CAA. In addition, the police confiscated some properties including 80 Bibles, two vehicles, a piano, a video camera and other smaller items.
Under the Religious Law in China, all the religious groups are required to register their places of worship. Spiritual activities in places of worship that have not registered may be considered illegal and participants can be punished.
According to CAA, 7 arrested leaders were released and 5 are still in custody at 12 a.m. midnight the next day. The remaining detained pastors are Guo Xianyao, Lu Jianzhen, Wu Haifang, Wang Ximei and Zhou Bin. All of them are in their late 40's or early 50's, expect Wu Haifang who aged 28 only.
Sources from eyewitness said that Pastor Guo Xianyao was being beaten by the police. Also, all of the arrested were required to pay fine and finger printed.
CAA has also unveiled another crackdown of underground church at Korla City of Xinjiang. 6 police officers came into the church when the congregations were having gathering on Christmas Eve. 100 believers were forced to stop the meeting.
Witness said the police even directed them to join the government sanctioned TSPM church meeting instead. However, the church leader told CAA that they will continue their weekly worship at somewhere else.
Earlier this month, there were also a few other persecutions against house churches in Zhaqi County, Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region; Gushi county, Henan province and the Suqian City of Jiangsu province.
On CAA's statment, the president Rev. Bob Fu condemns the arrest of these innocent church leaders and urges the Chinese authority to release them immediately.
"How can people have any faith on the Chinese government claim of religious freedom when peaceful Christmas celebrations were stopped and innocent citizens of faith were arbitrarily arrested ?"
Christmas has become a more popular festival in China in the recent years. Even though the majority atheist China celebrates Christmas in a secular way, a huge crowd of faithful is drawn to church services held in official churches. However, it is believed that there are also numerous underground gatherings.