Elder Li Yingqiang of Chengdu Early Rain Covenant Church, Sichuan province, was released from Dazhou City Detention Centre on 20 November and has returned home to his family. He had been detained while visiting the Good Land Mission Centre in Dazhou to minister at a baptism and communion service.
The detention centre issued him a “Notice of Release from Detention” which stated that he had been “administratively detained by Tongchuan District sub-bureau for ten days on charges of organising, instigating, coercing, luring and inciting cult and superstitious sects activities”.
Local Christians collected Elder Li after his release and accompanied him from Dazhou to his home in Deyang, Sichuan province, where his wife Zhang Xinyue and their two children greeted him with flowers.
Elder Li said he had found great joy during his time in the detention centre and that the ten days had provided him with a much-needed period of rest.
Detained after service of baptism and communion
On the morning of 9 November 2023 Elder Li and his co-workers Dai Zhichao, An Yankui and Wang Yingjie travelled to Dazhou city in Sichuan province to minister at a service of baptism and communion held by the Good Land Mission Centre in a hotel conference room.
At around 11 am more than ten police officers, national security agents and staff of the religious affairs bureau and civil affairs bureau arrived but the Christians asked them to respect the service and the officials held off until it was over.
At around 12.30 pm police took thirteen Christians to Dazhou’s Chaoyang Police Station for interrogation, including Elder Li, his co-workers and the leader of Good Land Mission Centre, Hou Duoshu.
At around 9 pm some of the detainees were released and allowed to return home but it was after midnight before Dai Zhichao, An Yankui and Wang Yingjie were released, and Elder Li and Hou Duoshu were detained overnight at the case processing centre of the police station.
The next day Elder Li received an administrative detention of ten days and a fine of ￥500 Yuan (€64) and was sent to the Dazhou City Detention Centre. Hou Duoshu received an administrative detention of five days but police stated that considering his health condition the detention would not be enforced and he was released at around noon.
The notice of administrative detention issued to Elder Li stated: “Elder Li Yingqiang’s ‘Administrative Penalty Decision’ determined that on November 9 2023, at around 11 am, Elder Li Yingqiang engaged in religious activities in the name of the banned ‘Chengdu Early Rain Covenant Reformed Presbyterian Church’ at the Gaowangdu Hotel, 3rd floor conference room, in Tongchuan District, Dazhou City.
“He was apprehended by public security department. Upon investigation, it was found that the organisation was officially declared an illegal social organisation and banned by Sichuan Provincial Department of Civil Affairs on March 25 2021.
“The aforementioned facts are confirmed by the statements and defences of the individuals involved, including Li Yingqiang, as well as witness testimonies, material evidence, and other supporting evidence. In accordance with Article 54, item 1, of the ‘Law of the People’s Republic of China on Penalties for Administration of Public Security,’ it is hereby decided to administratively detain Li Yingqiang for ten days and impose a fine of ￥500 Yuan for his unlawful actions.”
China Aid reported that Hou Duoshu repeatedly asked police to detain him only and release the others, especially those who had travelled from other cities to serve his church, but he was not able to prevent Elder Li from being detained and felt guilty about it. (Some of the Christians are pictured at the police station.)
Dai Zhichao posted on social media that he arrived home in Chengdu on 10 November and that An Yankui and Wang Yingjie had got a train back to Taiyuan. He said they spent twelve hours together in the police station where they read the Bible, prayed and had discussions. He wrote, “I was a little sad. We were sent to the police station together with police car. We had great conversations. Three of us were released the following day. Hou Duoshu and elder Li Yingqiang spent another twelve hours in there. Now God has elevated elder Li Yingqiang to the top of the mountain and given him a special spiritual formation, while we will continue to climb up the mountain.”
Elder Li: ongoing persecution
Elder Li has experienced ongoing persecution by Chinese authorities since the crackdown on Early Rain Covenant Church (ERCC) in December 2018. He was arrested and detained for eight months and after his release he took over the pastoral care of ERCC from Pastor Wang Yi, who had been sentenced to nine years in prison.
Police harassment forced Elder Li and his family to leave Chengdu and move several times, and just last month he was one of nine Christians detained at ERCC’s Bible college graduation service.
Good Land Mission Centre
The Good Land Mission Centre is a subsidiary of ERCC and has also suffered from persecution over the years, with police raiding Sunday services several times.
Leader Hou Duoshu heard the gospel while serving a prison sentence for participating in the June 4th Student Movement in 1989, and when he learned of ERCC’s mission to serve prisoners of conscience he joined the fellowship. Studying the Bible completely changed his worldview and he was baptised in ERCC. After deciding to devote his life to sharing the gospel he established the mission centre in Dazhou, his home city.
Photos: China Aid