China detains pastor's family including 3-year-old boy over involvement in missionary work

Officials in Hubei, China, took into custody a female pastor and her family members, including a 3-year-old child, for their participation in a local house church's missionary work at public parks and squares.

(REUTERS / Thomas Peter)People attend a Sunday service at a makeshift, tin-roofed church in Youtong village, Hebei Province, China, December 11, 2016.

On Sept. 22, Pastor Xu Shizhen and daughter Xu Yuqing were detained by police and officials from the religious affairs bureau after the two women joined Zion Church's efforts to preach the Gospel in public spaces. The authorities also seized the pastor's grandson, Xu Shouwang, and kept him at the station while the two women were brought to a different facility, China Aid learned.

On Sept. 24, the pastor's family members proceeded to the police station and were told that the child had been separated from the two women. However, the visitors were not told if the pair were under administrative or criminal detention.

Pastor Xu used to lead the Hongqiao house church, but the state-approved Three-Self Church acquired it in April 2012 after invading the building and destroying the church. The pastor then left the organization and established a new house church, but their missionary activities were still interrupted by authorities.

Meanwhile, Reuters reported that China's top newspaper, People's Daily, had warned Communist Party officials against praying to God or Buddha. The publication explained that atheism is the center of communism, and superstition causes government officials to become corrupt.

In addition, People's Daily said officials who have been involved in corruption have been known to "often go to monasteries, pray to God and worship Buddha." Although the Constitution guarantees freedom of religion, some say that members of the Communist Party ought to be atheists and should be banned from being involved in superstitious practices.

Moreover, the People's Daily cited the situation of former Sichuan deputy party chief Li Chuncheng, who was thrown into prison for 13 years in 2015 for bribery. The former official was said to be an active follower of the geomancy practice of fengshui.