Six Christian women are now facing charges after being arrested by government authorities for organizing and conducting a Bible study.
Earlier this month, according to China Aid, an international persecution watchdog, officers from the local religious affairs, public security, and urban management bureaus barged into a church where the women were conducting a bible study and threw accusations of holding religious meetings that were deemed illegal.
"We rented a room in the county for regular gatherings. The religious affairs bureau posted a notice, accused us of illegally [gathering], and threatened to ban our church," said Zhang, a church pastor, to China Aid. The group said they still pressed on with the gatherings until the government officers came in. Zhang said the officials took away some of the groups belongings, like their doormat and chairs.
The six women, which also included another pastor, faced detention sentences ranging from 10 to 15 days. The official charges were "organizing unauthorized religious activities."
In the "2015 Annual Report Chinese Government Persecution of Christians and Churches in China" conducted by China Aid last year, there were 634 cases of documented persecutions involving 19,426 religious practitioners, an increase from the 17,844 figure recorded in 2014.
The report also attributed the increase in the number of persecutions to the "Three Rectification and One Demolition" beautification campaign of the country, wish aimed to demolish crosses and Christian buildings on the charge of violating China's building code. The demolitions were reportedly marred with violence.
In the 2017 World Watch List released by Open Doors, another persecution watchdog group, China ranked 39thamong 50 countries where Christians were persecuted the most.