A well-known unregistered church in Beijing was repeatedly raided by police during the last two Sunday services, a U.S.-based Chinese Christian group China Aid Association (CAA) reported.
Beijing Ark House Church, located at Room 1904, Building 111, Nanhu Xiyuan, Chaoyang District, was raid on Jan. 15 at 4: 30 p.m., by four Public Security Bureau (PSB) officers in Beijing, according to several eyewitness reports obtained by CAA.
At that time, some 20 to 30 believers are attending the Sunday worship. Two uniformed policemen and two plain-clothed agents rushed into the rented apartment. One of the uniformed PSB officers accused them of disturbing the neighbor. The other one, however, claimed that the religious gathering was "illegal" and has breached the new State Council Regulations on Religious Affairs, for the place of gathering was not registered, CAA reported.
Yu Jie, one of the founders of the church and a best-selling author and internationally-known commentator, told CAA that the church is attended by many famous writers and lawyers. Among them are and human rights defense lawyers Gao Zhisheng and Li Baiguang, freelance writer, Bei Cun, and Professor Jiao Guobiao of Beijing University.
Gao Zhisheng is one of the leading attorneys in the high-profile case of the Beijing house church pastor Cai Zhuohua, who was charged for running "illegal business practices" and handed a prison sentence of three years after police found a large number of Bibles and religious materials in a church warehouse.
Despite repeated appeal to the court for Cai, the verdict has remained the same. Even worse, Cai reported to the Epoch Times newspaper recently that his family is being monitored and followed by plain-clothed agents from the Chinese government for almost three months.
Gao was at the scene when the policemen raided his church this time. In a report he wrote to the CAA, he said that the believers have tried to explain to the policemen about the clauses in the Constitution that protect the assembly, but one of the policemen said rudely, "Don't only talk about the Constitution. We are enforcing the regulations of the State Council." Saying this, that officer also took out a copy of "Regulations" from his pocket.
In addition, according to Gao’s report, his foreign media friend who was videotaping the scene was discovered by the officer. The officers then dragged Gao’s friend to a small room and used barbarian violence against him, in a bid to grab the video camera from him and take away his tapes.
The church was similarly raided by 7 PSB agents during their Sunday church service on Jan. 8, according to Yu. Yu, as the owner of the rented apartment where the church meets, he lamented that he can’t let the church continue to worship there any more because the "pressure (from the authority) is already very heavy."
On the CAA’s statement, it expressed deep concern for the escalation of crackdowns against unregistered churches before 2008 Beijing Olympics.
"The Chinese house churches have their constitutional right to hold free religious worship," said Rev. Bob Fu, president of CAA, "house churches like the Ark House Church chose purposely to worship openly without hiding because as Mr. Yu Jie said, ‘the church welcomes every sinner even President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao are welcomed to worship with them.’"
CAA calls upon the international community to continue to pay attention to the escalating situation on religious persecution in China. It also urges the Chinese government to sincerely comply with the international human rights covenants they signed to respect religious freedom for Chinese citizens.