A preacher has been arrested in Yunnan, southwest China for distributing coronavirus masks with bible verses on them.
Chang Hao, who runs a house church in Zhaotong City was arrested and detained on criminal charges last month.
House churches are generally considered illegal in China as they are often unregistered and not sanctioned by the government.
Many churches are either denied registration or choose not to register due to concerns over governmental control such as submitting to surveillance or pledging allegiance to the Chinese Communist party.
According to reports from publication Bitter Winter, police seized bibles, Christian literature and masks with scriptures on, in a raid on the rural church.
Hao’s wife says she has been refused contact with her husband since his detention by local authorities and does not know where he is being held.
Extreme charges against Protestant house church leaders are becoming increasingly common in China. The government has carried out a nationwide crackdown on house churches by harassing, detaining, physically abusing, and sentencing Protestants who refuse to join the state-controlled Three-Self Patriotic Movement – as stated in the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom’s latest report.
The country has been recommended to the U.S State Department for re-designation as a Country of Particular Concern due to its violations of the right to freedom of religion or belief.