Arrested in Chengdu

On the 10th anniversary of the Sichuan earthquake, Chinese authorities played catch-and-release with house church members who commemorated the disaster.

After the May 12, 2008, earthquake, house churches from all parts of China sent teams to help in the relief effort, which began a movement of Christian charities, as organizations provided aid, rebuilt houses, and planted churches. Wang, who at the time was not yet a full-time pastor, helped coordinate church teams that poured into the region to help earthquake victims. 

 

Police officers in Chengdu, China, detained Pastor Wang Yi and 200 members of Early Rain Covenant Church over the weekend as they prepared to gather for a service commemorating the 10th anniversary of the Sichuan earthquake. All were released within 24 hours—but the arrests and crackdown on one of China’s most influential house churches raised alarms over the Xi Jinping regime’s growing efforts against Christians.

The magnitude 7.9 earthquake in 2008 killed about 87,600 people, left millions homeless, and became a “sensitive” topic after more than an estimated 5,000 schoolchildren died as shoddy classrooms collapsed on top of them during the quake. Many blamed corruption and mismanagement by local officials that led to the construction of substandard school buildings, as structures around the schools remained intact after the quake. In response, the Chinese government silenced critics, banned newspapers from mentioning the issue, and stifled unapproved commemorations—like Early Rain’s service.

After the May 12, 2008, earthquake, house churches from all parts of China sent teams to help in the relief effort, which began a movement of Christian charities, as organizations provided aid, rebuilt houses, and planted churches. Wang, who at the time was not yet a full-time pastor, helped coordinate church teams that poured into the region to help earthquake victims.

Wang points to the earthquake as the moment he decided to leave his job as a law professor and go into full-time ministry, helping to grow his house church into one of the most influential in the country. With his background in constitutional law, Wang publicly speaks out about the government’s illegal treatment of churches and is often detained on “sensitive” dates such as May 12 or June 4, the anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre. Yet not all threats to the church come from the outside: Last year, the church underwent a difficult church split due to differences in personality and vision within the church leadership.

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