Police in China arrested 30 students gathered for a Bible class in the first week of January, during a spate of police raids on the Early Rain Covenant Church in Chengdu, Sichuan province.
The students were arrested as they gathered in a restaurant for an “introduction to Christianity” class. Their mobile phones were seized and they were interrogated for several hours, before being released.
The church’s Pastor Wang Yi and his wife Jiang Rong remain in jail where they have been held since 9 December after being arrested on charges of “inciting subversion”. At the time of writing, another 20 of the church’s congregation arrested remain in detention.
The pastor has released a “Letter from a Chengdu Jail” in which he makes clear that he does not seek to overthrow the state but to worship freely.
He writes, “Separate me from my wife and children, ruin my reputation, destroy my life and family – the authorities are capable of doing all these things. However, no one in this world can force me to renounce my faith.”
The past year has seen an intensification of government action against unofficial Chinese congregations – known as “house churches” in China, a country where there are thought to be 60 million Christians. A statement signed by 500 church leaders in November 2018 said authorities have removed crosses from buildings, forced churches to hang the Chinese flag and sing patriotic songs, and barred minors from attending services.