Protestant churchgoers trying to hold Easter services in Beijing this morning found themselves in detention rather than devotion.
Worshippers from the Shouwang church were taken into custody as they attempted to hold Easter mass in a public square in northwest Beijing. CNN reports that officers swarmed the gathering place as the evangelical Protestant churchgoers began to gather.
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At least 36 people were detained by police in the crackdown. The service was reportedly planned for more than a month but was over in a matter of minutes. Authorities loaded worshippers onto buses and transported them to various police stations. CNN says more than 500 other worshippers were blocked from leaving their homes this morning for the service.
The Chinese constitution allows for freedom of religion, but the Communist Party government strictly controls how people worship, requiring them to join state-run churches. According to the BBC, about 70% of the 70 million Christians in China are members of unregistered churches, called “house” churches. Shouwang, which roughly translates to “lighthouse,” is one of those churches, and counts itself among the largest with over 1,000 members.
Shouwang was evicted from their usual worship space last year and have taken to hosting outdoor services.
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