Beijing (AsiaNews) - Like every Sunday, police arrested members of Shouwang Church once again either before or after the service. "Let us pray that they won't be like Pilate, and choose personal interests over truth," and that they "will turn back to God and be freed from sin," wrote Rev Jin Tianming, the feisty clergyman in charge of one of the capital's Protestant congregation, in an ad hoc newsletter released after the service on 21 July.
"It was a sunny day. As far as we know, [. . .], at least thirty-four believers were taken away from locations near the platform or from home. Some of them were released soon after they were taken away, and the rest of them were detained at Zhongguancun Street police station," Rev Jin's statement said.
However, "Through this Sunday's sermon, God reminded us that we should pray for city management officials, policemen, and auxiliary police in our country," he added. "They are following orders to do evil, engaging in crime while being a victim of sin. Let us pray that they won't be like Pilate, and choose personal interests over truth, but will turn back to God and be freed from sin."
Shouwang Church has more than a thousand members. In 2005, it tried to register with the government but its request was dismissed.
Since 10 April 2011, the faithful have been forced to meet in the street for Sunday services, after the authorities banned them from several locations they had tried to lease.
In 2009, the congregation bought a 1,500-m2 building to hold their activities, but the authorities prevented them from using it. They followed this by trying to use a private home and then a restaurant: each time the police chased away.
Every prayer meeting they hold ends with a police raid, especially in summer.
In June 2011, the Public Security Bureau set a record by arresting dozens of Christians for seven consecutive Sundays. Despite this, there are always more than a hundred people every time.
In China, religious groups that register with the government are allowed to operate. However, underground Protestant organisations have more members (80 million) than the official Three-Self Patriotic Movement (about 20 million).
Lest the situation get out of hand, the Party has pursued a campaign for the past five years designed to crush underground communities or force them to join the official one.