(Xiamen, Fujian—May 24, 2019) More details have emerged about the government crackdown on Xunsiding Church in China’s southeastern Fujian province, detailing official interactions with the church that culminated in its banning on Sunday.
The string of events began on May 11, when government agents spoke to the church’s pastor, Yang Xibo, and introduced the government’s plan to shut down the church.
The next day, relevant government departments obtained a list of people attending the church and their personal information using the facial recognition cameras that had been installed at the church’s entrance. The officials then scheduled meetings with some of the church members via various residential committees located in Xiamen, the city where the church is located. Others were contacted through their place of employment and received pressure to sign a pledge swearing that they will not attend Xunsiding Church. If they refused, they could be fired.
On May 14, government personnel met with Yang’s wife, who expressed her solidarity with her husband, who was determined that the church not be closed. Authorities spoke to the couple again on May 18 and officially issued a correction order, which they posted on the church’s gate.
SWAT team members and 70 officers led by the local religious affairs bureau’s Director Zhang arrived at the church on the following day and demanded entry to investigate it and collect evidence. After negotiating with them, Yang allowed them to come in, and they began taking pictures. At 12:00 p.m., the bureau issued an administrative penalty notice, banning the church and fining it 25,000 yuan ($3,622.00 USD). In response, the church submitted an appeal.
Some of the SWAT officers are still stationed outside of the entrance to the church, which is actually privately-owned property, and prohibited Christians from either leaving or entering the building and asking them to write down their ID information. When some members of the church choir went to the location to rehearse yesterday, SWAT team members formed a human wall in between them and the entrance.
Some neighbors also reportedly became confused as to why the government was interfering with faith, which they regard as a personal matter.
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