A member of Early Rain Covenant Church in China was released from detention Thursday, seven months after his arrest, Christian persecution advocacy groups are reporting.
Gou Zhongcan, an affiliate of the Sichuan-based underground megachurch that authorities shut down last year, has returned home after being detained in a dark basement since March when he was arrested while visiting a friend in Zhejiang.
According to the United States-based advocacy group International Christian Concern, Gou’s vision deteriorated during his detention.
According to the Texas-based advocacy group China Aid, Gou was detained in the basement of a government office for refusing to give up the passwords to his computer and cell phone. He had previously spent 10 years in prison.
Gou’s lawyer had been unable to locate him despite multiple attempts. But eventually, Gou’s father was permitted to meet with him.
The father reported at the time that his son’s health was deteriorating but he still sang worship songs while he was being held captive.
Another Early Rain member who spoke with ICC said Gou is in good health despite the problems he’s experiencing with his vision.
“What great news to know that Gou is finally free,” ICC’s Regional Manager for Southeast Asia, Gina Goh, said in a statement. “But the Chinese government has not relented on the persecution of Christians.”
While some underground movements in China are shrouded in secrecy, Early Rain shared its faith publicly. According to the BBC, the church hosted public worship gatherings which drew the ire of the China’s communist government. Early Rain also ran a small school.
China Aid reports that at least 150 Early Rain members have been taken into police custody in the past year.
On Dec. 9, 2018, authorities arrested pastor and social activist Wang Yi and his wife, Jiang Rong. The next day, authorities detained 100 other members of the church, many of whom were later released. It was reported that authorities forced members to sign documents stating they would stop attending Early Rain.
Later that month, authorities arrested about 60 more members of the church as they tried to convene again.
According to the U.N.’s Human Rights Council working group report from Oct. 1, it’s believed that 13 members of the church are still being detained. Among them, according to the report, are Wang and Jiang, even though earlier reporting suggested that Jiang had been released.
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SOURCE: Christian Post, Samuel Smith