Update (April 22): ChinaAid reports that a house church raid in Henan province, China, has resulted in the arrest of U.S. church leader Dennis Balcombe, a Hong Kong Revival Chinese Ministries International pastor. Seven other Chinese house church leaders also were arrested.
CT previously interviewed Balcombe in 2004.
Morning Star News offers more details on the Henan raids.
ChinaAid reported in February the Chinese government's plan to eradicate all unofficial Protestant churches across the country. Now, that plan appears to have been set in motion.
"The ruling Chinese Communist Party's ideological agency in Jiaozhou city called on township Party committees and neighborhood panels to investigate fully all unofficial venues of worship on their territory," according to a report from Radio Free Asia.
Pastor Zhan Gang, who leads the local Protestant Chinese House Church Alliance in Jiaozhou, said all of the houses in his district already have been investigated.
That could signal the start of a broader, country-wide campaign, as pastors in Shenzhen and Guangzhou provinces report similar directives issued in their areas.
China Source president Brent Fulton and Open Doors author Jan Vermeer explained that "Christians are not persecuted simply for being Christians," but for engaging in political activity.
Fu counters that religious freedom may have increased, but persecution remains very real.
(Editor's note: This blog has been updated.)