BEIJING (Reuters) – The Zion church in Beijing, one of the city’s largest unofficial Protestant “house” churches, has operated with relative freedom for years, hosting hundreds of worshippers every weekend in an expansive, specially renovated hall in north Beijing.
But in April, city authorities asked the church to install 24 closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras in the building for “security”, Zion’s head pastor, Jin Mingri, told Reuters.
“They wanted to put cameras in the sanctuary where we worship. The church decided this was not appropriate,” Jin said over tea in his spacious, book-lined office. “Our services are a sacred time.”
When the request was refused, police and state security agents started harassing churchgoers, calling them, visiting them, contacting their workplace and asking them to promise not to go to church, according to statements from the church and interviews with attendees.