Authorities in the southeastern Chinese city of Xiamen have raided a Protestant house church for the second time in two months, RFA has learned.
Uniformed urban management police, or chengguan, and bureau of religious affairs officials with shields and walkie-talkies entered the privately run Xingguang Church in the city on Thursday, driving out church members and taking out desks, chairs, and other furniture, down to suspended ceilings, paneling, and glass used to subdivide the space.
A pastor familiar with the raid said the church had bought the property and applied for permission to extend it with a loft conversion, which was granted by the city authorities.
“When they tore it down, they did it in breach of the regulations, which state that the authorities are supposed to notify the property holders beforehand,” the pastor said. “After we received the notification, we applied for an administrative review, which is supposed to be a slow process, but they didn’t do this.”
The raid came after police raided a meeting of Xingguang church members in a private residence in May, bursting in without a warrant or any form of ID or documentation.
Several people were injured in the raid, footage of which was posted to social media. Church members said the church is likely being targeted because it has refused to join the Three-Self Patriotic Association, a state-approved body in charge of Protestant Christians.
“This incident in Xiamen is just a snapshot of the way things are in China now,” the pastor said, adding that the targeting of religious groups echoed the political violence of the Mao era, especially from 1966-1976. “It is very similar to a fascist regime, or to the Cultural Revolution,” he said.
“The [ruling Chinese] Communist Party would have at least pretended to follow correct procedures before, but now it’s not even pretending,” he said.
An eyewitness and church member said government officials have no right to demand ID from people.
“They are not police,” the church member said. “These violations were very clear; I asked them where they were from, and they said they were from the Yuanbo neighborhood committee, the Xinglin neighborhood committee,nd the Jimei district government.”
The raids come amid a nationwide crackdown on religious worship by the administration of President Xi Jinping, which regards Christianity as a dangerous foreign import, with ruling Chinese Communist Party documents warning against the “infiltration of Western hostile forces” in the form of religion.
The ruling party embraces atheism, yet exercises tight controls over any form of religious practice among its citizens.
China is home to an estimated 68 million Protestants, of whom 23 million worship in state-affiliated churches, and some nine million Catholics, 5.7 million of whom are in state-sponsored organizations.
Reported by Gao Feng for RFA’s Mandarin Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.