Chinese authorities have once again targeted the Early Rain Covenant Church with a police raid on a Bible class.
The flourishing church in Chengdu was repeatedly raided in December, with 160 of its members detained including its pastor Wang Yi and his wife Jiang Rong.
According to China Aid, more than 30 students had gathered last week at a restaurant for an 'Introduction to Christianity' class and a meal. Around 20 police officers confiscated their phones and took them to a police station, where they were interrogated.
According to China Aid's source, the Christians were kept at the police station for several hours without food or water, and it was very cold in the interrogation room.
Wang Yi and Jiang Rong are being held on charges of 'inciting subversion of state power'.
The moves against Early Rain are part of a wider Chinese clampdown on religion that has also seen around 1 million Uighur Muslims detained in 're-education camps'. According to Bitter Winter, which reports on persecution in China, authorities are enforcing 'church-free zones' around schools, forcing churches to close if they are too near schools. It cites an official order stating: 'All private Christian gathering sites around universities and colleges, as well as on-campus activity sites, are to be shut down in accordance with the law. Criticism and (re)education of participating teachers and students is to be carried out by the school authorities.'
Bitter Winter also reports on a new electronic surveillance programme, 'Sharp Eyes', which monitors churches. It quotes one rural Christian as saying: 'If they install any more surveillance cameras in the village, there will truly be nowhere left to go. During the Cultural Revolution, some Christians were able to dig underground cellars for congregations, but I fear in the future we won't even have a chance to do that.'