By Jeremy Reynalds
Senior Correspondent for ASSIST News Service
BEIJING (ANS) -- The meeting site of a Christian house church in Beijing was raided for being an "illegal gathering."
According to a news release from ChinaAid, believers said at least three house church meetings in the local area were raided by police.
In one case, more than 20 people, including police officers, religious affairs officials and joint defense team members burst into a meeting of 25 believers.
ChinaAid said, "They began breaking up the meeting, destroying installations in the room, and removing four or five cases of Bibles."
When a radio station contacted the local police and religious affairs officials on Monday they told the station that due to security concerns believers are not allowed to meet in private.
On Sunday morning, a meeting of Christians from the Harvest Church was broken up by more than 20 people from Gaoliying Police Station. Police cut short the sermon, forcibly dispersed the believers, and searched the rooms for religious items.
Mr. He said, "More than 20 of them came in yesterday while we were meeting. As soon as they arrived, they started removing computers, projector and sto ols from the room. Their director said that we were not welcome, and (they) took all our books, hymnals and Bibles. These past few days, we've been getting ready to negotiate with them and get our things back."
ChinaAid reported that another person, Ms. Xing, said the police officers were "rude and outrageous" after they entered the room. They shouted, "'Stay seated! Don't move!' (They were) like bandits, even grabbing the Bibles we were holding in our own hands. And, when we tried to make a video recording of them with our cell phones, they grabbed the phones and deleted everything."
House church believers hold small meetings throughout Beijing, and most of the time, the authorities don't interfere.
ChinaAid said an officer later explained that this meeting was broken up because, "There was a relatively large number of people there; there were children and elderly people. If something dangerous happened, they themselves cannot be held responsible."
Mr. He said that many house churches in that tow n have dealt with the same issue.
In addition, Beijing's Chenguang Bookstore, which mainly sells religious literature, was subjected to multiple inspections from different government departments around the Oct. 1 National Day holiday. They were told that they could be shut down.
In communist countries such as China, ChinaAid said efforts to exert control over the Christian population have increased.
According to ChinaAid, "China continues to insist on asserting its authority over all Christian groups, especially over those not registered with the State."
An international non-profit Christian human rights organization, ChinaAid is committed to promoting religious freedom and the rule of law in China.
For more information visit www.chinaaid.org