Fifteen Christians attending a Bible study in China's southwestern Sichuan Province were recently detained by twenty police officers and forced to remain in custody for over two weeks.
According to persecution watchdog China Aid, authorities broke into a church in mid-March and accused the Christians attending a Bible study of illegally gathering and "gathering a crowd to disturb public order." In addition to detaining the Christians for 15 days, police confiscated church seating, projectors, and air conditioning equipment.
China Aid reports another local house church, Langzhong Church, was also targeted by authortiies. Pastor Li Ming told the outlet that over the past several Christmases, authorities seized Christians who worshipped at the church because they refused to meet at the official Three-Self Church. As reported, Three-Self churches report to the Three-Self Patriotic Movement, which reports to the State Administration for Religious Affairs, which is in turn controlled by the Chinese Communist Party.
Last year, one church member, a woman surnamed Liang, was detained for 15 days, and all of the church's property was taken away.
Claiming to maintain the "safety and beauty," of the country, Chinese authorities have bulldozed churches and torn down hundreds of crosses from church rooftops. A March report from Christianity Today notes that over the past several months, China expelled dozens of South Korean missionaries from Jilin, a northeastern province that neighbors North Korea.
One human rights activist and pastor told Agence France-Presse (AFP) that most were on tourist or student visas.
"Chinese authorities raided the homes of the missionaries, "[It] was very exceptional," one anonymous source told the Financial Times. "The missionaries were keeping a low profile. In the past, most missionaries were given a month to leave since their activities in China were not harming the country. This time, it was different."
Recently, five Christian leaders in China's northeastern Liaoning province, who were arrested for allegedly purchasing and selling Christian books, received prison sentences for doing so.
The ongoing targeting of Christians prompted Open Doors USA top place the country at 39th on its World Watch List of countries where believers face the most persecution.
Currently, China has an estimated 100 million Christians. despite the increasing persecution of Christians in China, the Communist country is on track to have the largest Christian population in the world by 2030, according to statistics.
ChinaAid is an international nonprofit whose employees expose abuses of persecuted Christians and promotes religious freedom, human rights and rule of law in China.