Christian churchgoers in China were hospitalized after clashing with officials who attempted to install surveillance cameras inside churches.
As reported by The Gospel Herald, the Zhejiang government in March ordered churches in Wenzhou - a city known as "China's Jerusalem" due to its large Christian population - to install surveillance cameras for "anti-terrorism and security purposes". Government officials were sent to forcibly set up the devices should church staff refuse to comply with the new regulations, according to human rights and charitable organization ChinaAid.
When Christians in Wenzhou attempted to prevent officials from setting up surveillance, they were physically beaten and some of them hospitalized.
"Government officials came to the churches and put up cameras by force. Some pastors and worshipers who didn't agree to the move were dragged away," one unidentified Christian in Wenzhou told the South China Morning Post, referring to a recent clash. "Some people needed to be treated in a hospital after fighting the officials."
Some Christian women who stationed themselves outside the church were seized for their resistance, and only released once the surveillance cameras were set up.
"I don't support the government's decision and I hope they will not put monitoring equipment inside our church," the churchgoer told SCMP.
"We Christians do good deeds and we don't do anything to endanger the public. I don't understand why the government wants to monitor us. The government's pressure on us will not deter us from our beliefs and will not affect the proliferation of our religion. The tougher the persecution, the more people will be encouraged to follow the religion," the churchgoer added.
The ordinance to place surveillance outside Three-Self Churches - which are already heavily monitored and policed by the government - comes two years after Chinese authorities ordered churches in the coastal province to remove crosses from their buildings. At the time, authorities across the Zhejiang province demolished more than 2,000 church crosses as part of a "beautification" campaign known as "Three Rectifications and One Demolition."
While authorities attempted to justify their actions by claiming that church buildings or crosses had been constructed illegally, Christians saw the demolitions as a deliberate attack on their faith. Those who resisted the order were jailed or physically assaulted by police.
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.