- A prominent Christian worship centre known as Zion Church in Beijing has been shut down by the Chinese government
- Some Beijing officials who carried out the government's order on Sunday, September 9, claimed that the church was operating without licence
- However, the move was seen as the government's effort to increase its control over religious activities in the country
As part of its move to increase control over religious activities within its confines, the Chinese government, through officials of the Beijing Chaoyang district civil affairs bureau on Sunday, September 10, shut down one of the largest underground worship centres in the capital known as Zion Church, Reuters reports.
The head pastor of the church, Jin Mingri revealed that not less than 70 officials stormed into the apartment which is on the third floor of a nondescript office building in the north of the capital - after its afternoon service, sealing up the place and guarding the building with police presence on Monday, September 10.
Mingri said: "They chased everyone out and sealed off the place, even tearing down our signage on the wall. All our things have been confiscated and we have not been allowed to re-enter the building."
The local civil affairs bureau said the church, which has a weekly sitting capacity of 1,500 worshippers, and its affiliates have been “legally banned” together with its "illegal promotional material”.
The Chaoyang district civil affairs bureau in a statement said: "After investigation, (we found) the 'Zion Church in Beijing' was not registered and carried out activities in the name of social organisations without authorisation."
The government is obviously cautious of any organised movements outside its own control. Christians in the country are grouped into those who attend unofficial "house" or "underground" churches and those who go to government-sanctioned places of worship.
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According to estimated report, the country has about 20 million Christians in official churches monitored by the government, although it is claimed that the number could be higher.
Meanwhile, Legit.ng reported that police officers on Sunday, February 11, stopped members of Embrace International Assembly, Ikorodu, Lagos, from entering into their church premises.
The policemen, barricading the main entrance into the church with their van, also stood at strategic positions within and outside the premises to prevent worshipers from going in.
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