House church shut down in Shaanxi, two Protestants imprisoned

Beijing, China – Two Christians have been in police custody for the past ten days after their house church was raided and closed on 13 March. In China, any unauthorised religious meeting is deemed a criminal offence and anyone involved can be prosecuted.

On 13 March, a dozen underground Christians were worshipping in the home of Weng Zemei in Ma’an Village, Zhongchang township (Baihe county), when the local police chief Xia Huashan and two officers burst into the home and took all 12 worshippers into custody.

Ten were released the same evening, but two remain in detention. They are Weng and Zhang Yongkuan. Police also confiscated all the Bibles and other religious books and publications.

For years, Beijing has tried to crush underground Protestant communities, either by forcing them to disband or by inducing them to join the Movement of Three Autonomies, the official state-sponsored organisation for Chinese Protestants. However, most of the faithful, estimated to be at least 50 million, have rejected an entity that, in their view, has “sold out to the state”.

In recent weeks, many underground Protestant communities have launched a prayer campaign in favour of a Chinese version of the ‘Jasmine Revolution’ that swept away the regimes of Tunisia and Egypt.

Alarmed by this, the government has placed its security forces and the army on high alert to crack down on dissidents and activists and prevent any kind of demonstration.