BEIJING: Beijing officials have shut down one of China’s largest "underground" Protestant churches for operating without a licence, the Communist government’s latest move to ramp up control over religious worship.
Around 70 officials stormed into the Zion Church -- housed on the third floor of a nondescript office building in the north of the capital -- after its Sunday afternoon service, said church pastor Jin Mingri.
"They chased everyone out and sealed off the place, even tearing down our signage on the wall," Jin told AFP on Monday. "All our things have been confiscated and we have not been allowed to re-enter the building." Local authorities said the church and its affiliates have been banned.
"After investigation, we found the ‘Zion Church in Beijing’ was not registered and carried out activities in the name of social organisations without authorisation," the Chaoyang district civil affairs bureau said in a statement.
On Monday, at least a dozen marked police vehicles and scores of officers both in uniform and plainclothes guarded the building where the congregation held its services.
AFP journalists were barred from entering the building. The officers said the third floor was sealed off.