Underground Protestant church shut down for remembering Tiananmen
by Wang Zhicheng

The Early Rain Covenant Church was founded by pastor Wang Yi, a former human rights activist. A two-hour prayer was scheduled in memory of the victims of the massacre. For the police, the reason for the closure is that the church does not respect the new Regulations on religious activities.

Beijing (AsiaNews) - An underground Protestant church (not recognised by the government) was closed yesterday afternoon, just hours before its members gathered to commemorate the anniversary of the Tiananmen massacre.

In China, the events of 4 June 1989 are heavily censored, and it is forbidden to commemorate them in any way.

The Early Rain Covenant Church in Chengdu (Sichuan) had scheduled two hours of prayer starting at 7.30 pm to remember the young people killed by soldiers and army tanks 29 years ago.

Immediately after 3 pm, dozens of uniformed and plain-clothes police officers entered the community building and took away its pastor, Rev Wang Yi, along with his wife and a group of faithful.

Since 2009, the community holds a month of prayer that runs from 12 May – the date of the earthquake in Sichuan – to 4 June, the date of the massacre in Tiananmen Square.

This is the first time that the authorities stopped the church from marking the anniversary.

The reason given by the police for shutting down the church is that it is not registered and violates the new Regulations on religious activities.

Wang founded the Early Rain Covenant Church in 2005. Since then, it has become one of the most important communities in the country. Before he became a pastor, Wang was a human rights lawyer.

Last month, the community was prevented from holding a memorial service for the people who died in  the Sichuan earthquake.