03/07/2019, 13.20
CHINA
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Eleven children, including a two-month baby, from the Early Rain Covenant Church arrested in Chengdu

Although the underground community has been outlawed, its members continue to meet in private homes, which police violently raid. Children held in prison overnight in the cold and hungry.

Chengdu (AsiaNews) – Eleven children, including a two-month-old baby, are the youngest people in police custody in Chengdu (Sichuan). They were arrested on 24 February along with their parents who had met in various houses to pray on Saturday night.

In all, 44 people were arrested, the Facebook profile of the Early Rain Covenant Church announced. The underground Protestant community’s pastor, Rev Wang Yi, was arrested last December.

Although the community’s centre was closed, members continued to meet on Saturday nights in private homes. However, this is banned under new regulations on religious activities. This is why every week some believers are arrested, detained and then released.

On 24 February, the 44 people who were arrested remained in prison until the next day. Even the children had to sleep on a cold floor and were not given any food.

At the police station, a church member, Tang Chunliang and his wife, were struck by a police officer.

On 2 March, more church members were arrested. According to an account posted on Facebook, “At 9:00 a.m. on March 2nd, sister Xing and brother Liu of Early Rain Covenant Church were arrested by police from the Chengdu Shuyuan Police Station while visiting brothers and sisters.

“They were then taken to the Taisheng Road Police Station, where they were locked up and interrogated [. . .], personally humiliated, abused, and violently beaten by seven to eight police officers. [. . .] As of 10:00 p.m. Beijing time, they are waiting for police to force their landlord to kick them out of their home.”

The new regulations provide that those who give hospitality to underground religious groups can have their property seized.

The Early Rain Covenant community has about 500 members and 300 sympathisers. It is not new to arrests and raids.

Last June, its centre was shut down because the community tried to commemorate the people killed in the Tiananmen massacre with a memorial service.

Some members were arrested in October because they engaged in evangelisation in the streets near Chengdu station.

A few days after his arrest, a letter by Rev Wang Yi was made public. In it, he slams the lack of religious freedom in China and reiterates the non-violent character of the faith of his community.

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