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Chinese authorities detain over 30 Christians, including American family, for attending church service

(Reuters/Thomas Peter)Believers attend a service at the unofficial catholic church in Majhuang village, Hebei Province, China, December 11, 2016. Picture taken December 11, 2016.

More than 30 Christians, including an American family with children, were detained overnight, following a raid on a house church in China's southern Guangdong province on Wednesday evening.

On the evening of May 3, the authorities raided the Zhongfu Wanmin Church approximately half an hour into their evening service. When the church members attempted to take pictures of the raid, the officers confiscated their cell phones, ID cards and bank cards, China Aid reported.

The officers reportedly beat up the pastor, Li Peng, for trying to take pictures. Li and 30 other church members were detained and interrogated overnight. The 30 church members were released the next morning, but the authorities have kept the pastor in detention.

The pastor's wife, Huang Xiaorui, went to the police station in the morning, but officers refused to let her visit her husband.

"They didn't let me see my husband," she said. She went on to say: "I insisted that I was there for a justification. I wanted justice. I waited at the police station all morning, to no avail. The other brothers and sisters were released in different orders and each of them were questioned for a very long time. I myself was interrogated for more than an hour. The oldest believer they detained is a grandmother, more than 80 years old. There were also children [among the detainees.]"

The authorities accused the church of "accommodating foreigners" because of the presence of the American couple and their two children.

Huang said that the police detained the American family after summoning them from their hotel. She noted that the couple were Americans, but they were registered as Hong Kong residents. She maintained that the family only wanted to have a look at their church on Wednesday.

The raid on Zhongfu Wanmin Church came after the authorities detained a Chinese-American pastor for hosting a seminar for more than 140 Chinese house church pastors in the Panyu district of Guangzhou, Guangdong.

Wang Zhiyong, who leads a Chinese church in Virginia, was detained on April 25 and interrogated for four hours before the authorities ordered him to leave China immediately.

After his release, he wrote on his Facebook page: "Thank God. Arriving in Malaysia safely and embracing freedom again! Even as a Chinese (person) in China, I have no basic right to freedom of religion."

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