Chinese authorities raid church, detain 15 in latest Christian persecution campaign

ReutersA Chinese Christian prays at his home in a village in Shanxi province after Chinese authorities forcibly closed down so-called house churches, according to Christian group China Aid.

A group of 15 Chinese Christians have been detained after more than 20 police officers raided a house church in theSichuan province in the south-west of the country.

Authorities interrupted a Bible study and accused the group of 'illegally gathering a crowd to disturb public order' according to the human rights organisation China Aid.

All of those at the house church were detained for 15 days by police, China Aid said.

Church seating, projectors and air conditioning equipment were confiscated.

Separately, in the southern province of Guangdong police officers raided two house churches.

China Aid reports that at least ten government officials interrupted a prayer meeting at Olive Church on 19 March, accusing them of lacking the authorisation to conduct religious meetings. Twenty members of the congregation were detained but released later on the same day.

A second church in the province was also raided and had its possessions seized. The church has since fractured into smaller groups and relocated for the safety of its members, China Aid said.

Persecution in China increased in 2016, according to a recent report by China Aid.

The report found that the number of detained Christians rose from at least 19,426 in 2015 to at least 48,100 in 2016.

Further, 'there were 278 abuse cases, including physical, verbal, mental abuse and torture—42.6% more than in 2015'.

Christians in China must register as members of the government-run Three Self Church.

Many decline to do so and instead attend underground churches outside of government control.

China is increasingly cracking down on what it calls 'illegal gatherings', which are often merely Christians who have come together to worship.