A Christian pastor in Wuhan, China was detained by police Saturday while hosting an online evangelical event on the video platform Zoom.
The pastor, identified only as Luo from Nanjing Road Church, had reportedly been handing out protective masks and Christian newsletters in Wuhan since the coronavirus outbreak began there. His actions drew the attention of the police.
The “Proclaim Jesus Gospel Gathering” was supposed to be an all-day online event, according to International Christian Concern (ICC), a watchdog group that monitors the persecution of Christians globally.
The gathering was interrupted when the police raided Luo’s home around noon and took him to the police station for questioning, Fox News reported.
ICC said in a statement Sunday that the police “started to look for evangelism materials or publications, before taking preacher Luo away.”
The Chinese Christian Fellowship of Righteousness (CCFR), an American organization that advocates on behalf of Christians in China, posted a picture of Wuhan police inside Luo’s home on Twitter. It added that Luo was taken to the local police station and interrogated for four and a half hours.
— 華人基督徒公義團契 (@ccfr2017) May 23, 2020
The Communist Party of China has long suppressed religious expression in the country. Since 2019, the Chinese government has shut down hundreds of churches and Christian events in the country. They are even reported to have replaced images of Jesus and the Virgin Mary with images of Chinese President Xi Jinping. (RELATED: Priest Imprisoned For Nine Years After Calling Chinese Communist Party ‘Morally Incompatible With The Christian Faith’)
Xi has been particularly forceful in removing the influence of religion in China. His government has sought to tighten its control over Christianity and other religions in order to subordinate them to the Communist Party.
In 2018 alone, more than 100,000 Christians were reportedly arrested for practicing their faith. Banning the Bible and other elements of the Christian faith are a common occurrence in China.
The tweet posted by CCFR shows a message sent by pastor Luo on the Chinese messaging app WeChat indicating that he had been released from custody after his hours-long interrogation.
He reportedly rebuked the police by telling them he will “only live for Christ.”