On April 25, Chinese police, national security officers, and religious affairs officials raided a church in the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen, just days after one of the church’s members spoke with US State Department officials.
The raid occurred on Sunday morning at Shenzhen’s Trinity Gospel Harvest Church in the city’s Longgang District, during a worship service attended by approximately 20 people. According to Shi Minglei’s Twitter messages, the Chinese officials did not offer any legal documents for their raid, and a pastor and some churchgoers were seen on video footage asking why the police violated the law by storming their church.
Ten people were eventually detained and taken to a local police station in Shenzhen, including two priests, a clergyman, and seven churchgoers.
Shi used to attend mass at the church until she and her five-year-old daughter fled China and arrived in the United States on April 7, with the assistance of the United States State Department, the United States Embassy in China, and the Christian nonprofit China Aid based in the United States.
Cheng Yuan, her husband, was the executive director of Changsha Funeng, a Chinese non-governmental legal services organization that he co-founded in 2016. Cheng and two other members of the group, Wu Gejianxiong and Liu Yongze, were apprehended by Changsha’s national security agents in July 2019. Changhsa is the capital of Hunan Province in southern China.
Cheng, Wu, and Liu were later charged with “subverting state power,” a crime often used by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) to censor opponents of the communist regime. In September 2020, they were assigned to a secret trial at Changsha’s Intermdiate People’s Court.
Shi detailed her ordeals after her husband was detained in a Facebook post on April 9. She was interrogated for more than 20 hours by Chinese secret police once, and she was even accused of “subverting state power.” On July 22, 2019, an unidentified Changha national security agent warned Shi that her daughter would be interrogated as well if she did not comply.
Shi’s bank accounts were frozen and her identity papers, including her passport, were taken away by Changsha’s national security agents on July 23, 2019. On Aug. 13, 2019, two Changha national security agents showed Shi a video of her husband asking them to leave her alone.
“They tried to use my daughter and me as hostages in order to silence me and coerce Cheng Yuan into pleading guilty,” Shi wrote.
Shi posted on Twitter on April 20 that she and her daughter had a wonderful meeting with US State Department officials.
“I expressed our gratitude and appreciation to them for their ongoing attention and assistance,” Shi wrote.
Shi told the Hong Kong newspaper Apple Daily on April 25 that she thought the 10 arrests were made in retaliation for her meeting with US officials, because nothing like this had ever happened at the church before.
She did, however, clarify that the pastors of the church had long been under the surveillance of Shenzhen’s national security officers. They will be contacted by phone or in person by officers.
Furthermore, Shi said that she had received messages from relatives still living in mainland China, in which they expressed concern for her and her daughter’s welfare. The relative also advised her not to consult with any US officials in the future.
According to Bob Fu, a Chinese American pastor and the founder of China Aid, the ten people who were detained have since been released.