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13 Christians detained for questioning in China for holding church services

(Reuters/Kim Kyung-Hoon/File Photo)Believers take part in a weekend mass at an underground Catholic church in Tianjin November 10, 2013.

Chinese officials reportedly broke into a house church in southern Guangdong province earlier this month and took 13 Christians to the police station for holding unapproved religious services.

According to China Aid, a team of police officers and religious affairs bureau personnel interrupted a Sunday morning worship service at Qingcaodi Church on Nov. 5 and accused the worshippers of holding a religious gathering at unapproved sites.

The 13 Christians were brought to the Xincheng Police Station, where they were held for questioning. They were not released until their information was entered into the database and transcripts of their interrogation were filled out.

The woman who provided the venue for the worship service, Zhai Lili, had received an administrative detention sentence and had not been released.

China Aid reported that the authorities also confiscated Bibles and other Christian materials belonging to the church.

The Communist government has been stepping up its crackdown on religion ahead of the implementation of the new revisions to the Regulations on Religious Affairs in February.

In September, officials in the province of Hubei reportedly detained a pastor, along with her daughter and 3-year-old grandson, for taking part in missionary work.

Pastor Xu Shizhen, her daughter, Xu Yuqing, and Xu Yuqing's three-year-old son, Xu Shouwang, were arrested by police and religious affairs bureau personnel for taking part in Zion Church's efforts to spread the Gospel in local public parks and squares.

Family members who came to see them at the police station were told that they had separated the women from the child, keeping the three-year-old at the station while transferring his grandmother and mother to other facilities.

Xu Shizhen had previously served as a pastor of Hongqiao church, but she decided to launch a new one after her old church was acquired by the Three-Self church in April 2012.

In early September, The Association of Christian Students, an institution affiliated with the Chinese Communist Party, issued a report detailing the government's plans to launch a special management program targeting private churches, "illegal" religious organizations, and preachers who have not been ordained by the state.

Under the program, smaller churches will forcibly be combined with churches registered with the state-run Three-Self Patriotic Movement, and those that refuse to register will be banned.

The government also plans to shut down churches that have been deemed by public security and religious affairs bureaus as "illegal religious organizations, organizations influenced or controlled by foreign powers intending to infiltrate [the country], or [religious] gathering places that broke the laws or are under the control of cults."

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