Chinese Police Detain Prominent Pastor and Over 100 Protestants

The New York Times
Date: Dec. 10, 2018
By: Ian Johnson 

Wang Yi, second from right, met President George W. Bush in 2006 at the White House with other prominent Christian activists.CreditEric Draper/The White House, via Reuters

The Chinese police have detained one of the country’s most prominent Protestant pastors along with more than 100 members of his independent congregation, the latest sign of a growing crackdown against what the government perceives as illegal or foreign-influenced religious activity.

Wang Yi, who heads the Early Rain Covenant Church in the southwestern metropolis of Chengdu, was detained Sunday evening as congregants gathered for services, said members of the church.

“Lord, help us to have the Christian’s conscience and courage to resist this ‘Orwellian nonsense’ with more positive Gospel action and higher praise,” the church said in a statement shortly before the members were detained. “Without love, there is no courage.”

More than 100 church members were detained on Sunday, according to statements issued by church members. As of Monday morning, police vans were parked outside the high-rise office where the church purchased space. Officers were seen carrying office materials out of the church’s property, which also includes a kindergarten and seminary.

By Monday afternoon, some of the members of the congregation had been released, although some were immediately placed under house arrest, including the assistant deacon Zhang Guoqing.

One of the church’s longtime members and member of its advisory council, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because she feared government retaliation, confirmed that church members had been detained. She said it was unclear how long those members were expected to remain in custody, but said the situation was serious.

The police in Chengdu referred questions to the city’s propaganda department, which did not immediately respond to faxed requests for comment on Monday.

In September, the authorities informed the church that it was in violation of the government’s religious policy, according to a copy of the notice posted by church activists on social media.