They registered the names of the students, interrogated their parents and staff, confiscated their cell phones, and copied contact information from the church’s computers to prevent members from documenting and reporting the raid.
According to South China Morning Post, officials from the education and religious affairs departments stayed until 8:00 p.m. and confiscated church property, including more than 4,000 books. Entry and exit points for the roads leading to the church have been cordoned off by police.
When the worshippers went to their church the next day for Sunday service, more than 30 police officers were present to prevent members from entering. A notice issued by the Yuexiu Ethnic and Religious Affairs Bureau shows that the church is now disbanded and Christians should instead worship at other state-sanctioned churches nearby.
Rongguili Church was founded by the late Lin Xiangao, an iconic leader in the Chinese house church known for his resistance against the Three-Self Patriotic Movement. Thousands attend the church every week and it is widely seen as the beacon of faith in southern China.
This incident makes Rongguili Church the third victim in the latest clampdown on influential house churches in China, following Beijing’s Zion Church and Sichuan’s Autumn Rain Covenant Church.
Father Francis Liu shared the church’s prayer request on Twitter. The church asked people to “pray for the Lord’s mercy on the copied file as it contains personal information of preachers and other churches. May God bless them as local authorities have already taken turns to visit the home of one of the listed.”
A house church member in Beijing who has closely followed the latest crackdown against house churches told ICC, “It seems like the government has been deliberately targeting several influential house churches in China… What might be the reason behind their action at this particular moment we don’t know, but God knows! May God’s will be done.”
Gina Goh, ICC’s Regional Manager, said, “From Beijing to Sichuan to Guangzhou, the carefully planned crackdown against house churches shows that the Chinese government has sought to take house churches out of the Christian landscape and force believers to join state-sanctioned churches instead. By doing so, Christians will be subjected to indoctrination through party ideology. This is a clear violation of religious liberty and should be condemned by the international community.”