A couple from Guangdong, China was arrested earlier this month for distributing Christian tracts and protesting against abortion at a local park
Liang Ziliang, who leads a Baptist Church in the city of Heshan, was detained along with his wife, Li Yinxiu, after they handed out brochures about Christianity at the park with several church members on June 1.
According to China Aid, police had taken pictures of the group when they were handing out the tracts at the park. The couple was summoned to the police station later that night, and they were reportedly detained at the Heshan Municipal Detention Center without anyone being able to contact them for days.
The authorities also reportedly conducted a search on the couple's home despite the lack of a warrant.
Relatives were informed on June 6 that the couple had been detained due to a violation of Article 80 of China's Criminal Law.
Members of Liang's church were reportedly distressed by the detention of the couple. A local Christian who visited the church said, "Liang Ziliang's older sister has never dealt with dilemmas like this. She lacks experience. She's very nervous," according to China Aid.
Watchdog groups have expressed alarm over the crackdown against Christians and other religious minorities in China following the closure of several churches in the past few weeks.
China Aid Founder and President Bob Fu has warned that the number of Chinese Christians being arrested for their faith "has reached the highest level since the end of the Cultural Revolution."
"For Christians alone, last year we documented persecution against 1,265 churches, with the number of people persecuted over 223,000. And that is just the tip of the iceberg," Fu said, as reported by Washington Times.
"In 2016, there were 762 cases of persecution, according to our documentation, with the number of people persecuted 48,000. It really is almost five times [as much]," he added.
Fu explained that his organization had documented 3,700 cases of Christians who were arrested in 2017. He further noted that some human rights activists were detained for years, leaving their relatives to wonder if they are still alive.
Earlier this month, police conducted a raid in an underground parish in Sichuan province, ahead of a memorial service that marks the anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre. According to China Aid, the police detained 17 people, including Pastor Wang Yi and his wife.
Fu noted that the government has stepped up its persecution of Christians following the implementation of the New Regulations for Religious Affairs in February.