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'No Regard for Religious Freedom': Chinese Officials Arrest 18 Adults, 10 Kids During Early Rain Church Worship Service

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Chinese police arrested 28 people, 10 of them children, after they raided a worship service Sunday at Early Rain Covenant Church (ERCC) in Chengdu.

Details about the incident were shared on a Facebook prayer page for the church.

"On the morning of August 22, 2021, during Sunday worship at Early Rain Covenant Church in Chengdu, police illegally raided the Tashui Small Group as they were meeting offline in Chenghua District. The police claimed to have received a call reporting an illegal gathering there," the post reads.

"Pastoral intern Dai Zhichao asked the police to present a search warrant. The police were rough and wanted to check people's ID cards. Dai Zhichao's arm was scratched and his cell phone was taken away."

Oddly, police allowed the worshippers to eat lunch before they were forced to accompany the authorities.

Following the attack, police notified brother He Shan's family that he had been placed in administrative detention for 14 days and was fined 1,000 RMB ($154).

Dai's wife was also informed that officers were holding him in detention for 14 days.

An ERCC member told persecution watchdog International Christian Concern (ICC) that many people were physically beaten by the police while in detention. The children were even hit on their heads by officers if they were caught playing.

Rather than attend church, the Chinese government requires children to join a group called Young Pioneers of China so they can grow up and become communists.

The group is for children ages 6 - 14 years of age and is sponsored by the Communist Youth League. 

China Aid President Bob Fu describes the situation as a war against religious education for children. 

"No one under the age of 18 is allowed in a church building, or they will face serious consequences," said Fu. "In every school, children are not allowed to get any religious education or participate in religious activities."

Over the past few years, China's communist regime has ramped up its extreme measures to crack down on religious groups in China and members of ERCC have faced relentless persecution.

CBN News previously reported that Pastor Wang Yi, who led ERCC, was taken into custody in December of 2018 after his home was raided and ransacked by police.

The prominent pastor was sentenced to nine years in prison on charges of "inciting subversion of state power" and "illegal business operations."

Also, ERCC Elder QinDefu was sentenced in Nov. 2019 to four years in prison by a court in Chengdu. He was charged with "illegal business operations" for having books for the church.

Just recently the Chinese government released information on a new reward system as a way to crack down on Christians who engage in "illegal religious activities." 

Citizens are encouraged to report anyone that is distributing printed religious material or holding worship gatherings. Informants could be eligible to receive 1,000 yuan ($150) for their snooping. 

"The latest raid against ERCC, though nothing novel, shows a worrying trend that house churches are frequently subjected to harassment like this in the name of 'law enforcement,' where legally flawed Revised Regulations on Religious Affairs have been employed by Beijing to crackdown on house churches around the country," said Gina Goh, ICC's Regional Manager for Southeast Asia.

"The Chinese Communist Party's constant fear of unregistered churches is both pathetic and preposterous, as it underscores President Xi's insecurity toward any critical mass. There is absolutely no regard for religious freedom," Goh added. 

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