Authorities in the southeastern Chinese city of Xiamen are holding nine people after hundreds of police raided a Protestant church gathering at the weekend, RFA has learned.
An estimated nine people were detained after state security police and officials from Xiamen's religious affairs bureau raided a meeting of the unofficial Xingguang Church on Sunday morning, local time.
Chaotic scenes ensued as dozens of law enforcers struggled to grab and take away church members, some of whom fought back hard not to be removed from the meeting, according to cell phone footage of the raid seen by RFA.
Pastor Yang Xibo told RFA that the members were meeting in a private residence at the time of the raid, and that police had burst in without a warrant or any form of ID or documentation.
"The state security police came banging at the door, then they kicked it down and dragged those in the way outside the doorway, dragging them to the ground," Yang said in an interview on Monday.
"One person's ribs were cracked, and they are now in a lot of pain, and a lot of the [female church members] have bruises on their arms and legs," he said. "We went to the hospital with them, so we could record the evidence."
Yang said the raid was likely due to the church's refusal to join the Three-Self Patriotic Association, a state-approved body in charge of Protestant Christians.
An eyewitness said the church members had no warning.
"They didn't say anything, nor show any documentation, but they just broke in," he said. "They pinned a man and a woman to the floor, pinning them down by chest and legs using their knees."
He said police then took personal details and ID numbers from everyone present.
"They told us that it is illegal for us not to resister [with the government], but we don't think that private residential gatherings are illegal," he said.
"This kind of gathering of mostly friends and relatives is just like any family gathering," he said.
A second church member from Xiamen who declined to be named said it should be illegal for the authorities to break into private residential property and detain people.
"We would like the whole of society to pay attention to this violent behavior," the church member said. "They are lawless and indiscriminate."
Repeated calls to the Xiamen municipal bureau of religious affairs and to the local government offices in Xinglin district rang unanswered during office hours on Monday.
The raid came amid a nationwide crackdown on religious worship by the administration of President Xi Jinping, which regards Christianity as a dangerous foreign import, with ruling Chinese Communist Party documents warning against the "infiltration of Western hostile forces" in the form of religion.
The ruling party embraces atheism, yet exercises tight controls over any form of religious practice among its citizens.
China is home to an estimated 68 million Protestants, of whom 23 million worship in state-affiliated churches, and some nine million Catholics, 5.7 million of whom are in state-sponsored organizations.
Reported by Gao Feng for RFA's Mandarin Service, and by Wong Lok-to for the Cantonese Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.