Christian Leaders Detained in Raids Across China
The China Aid Association reports that several Christian House Church leaders were seized by the Chinese police in raids-often violent- in various locations throughout China. Many of the victims are still in custody.
The Chinese communist regime, officially atheist, only allows worship in state-regulated Patriotic Christian churches, using approved liturgies and communist-edited Bibles. Many Christians risk arrest and imprisonment to worship in more normal Christian traditions in small groups in private homes.
According to CAA reports, Pastor Lian Changnian was detained on March 20, 2006 at Hubei Province and is now being held at the Detention Center of Xiantao City, Hubei Province. Pastor Lian was leading a Bible study of over 100 believers at a House Church at Xiantao City when the raid occurred.
CAA also reported that 15 House Church Leaders are still detained, including a 15-year-old female evangelist, following a brutal police raid on a house church leaders' meeting in Henan Province. Two prominent human rights lawyers in Beijing agree to represent the persecuted church leaders.
Sources say the pastors were accused of being “illegal evil cult members” by the authorities; however, these pastors are believed to be part of the Henan Fangcheng Mother Church group which is known worldwide as an evangelical House Church group in China. The Chinese regime considers Roman Catholics, Baptists, Methodists, Lutherans… any Christian not worshipping in the Communist church – to be “cult members.”
According to several eyewitness reports, on March 13, about 100 Public Security officials raided a house church leadership meeting at Wen County, Henan Province. All of the leaders were taken into custody after the police searched them and confiscated any cash on them. Thirty-six were released within 24 hours, three were released on March 18 and six were released on March 20, but fifteen are still detained in various detention centers in different counties.
The police beat the pastors and shocked them with electric batons. 51-year-old Pastor Li Gongshe still remains in Room 210, Mengzhou City Chinese Medical Hospital for treatment of a broken rib sustained in these beatings.
Among the fifteen, the whereabouts of six are still unknown. According to a CAA investigator who interviewed several of the pastors who were released, the police treated them very brutally. All were beaten with electric shock batons at the police station. One of the leaders, 51-year-old Pastor Li Gongshe, still remains in Room 210, Mengzhou City Chinese Medical Hospital for treatment of a broken rib due to a beating by the police. According to pastor Li, after he showed the police his handicap certificate a policeman, Officer Wang, kept beating him in front of the police chief and the political director. One Christian lady, 21-year-old Ms. Shan Ailing, has left home out of humiliation because she was forced by the police to strip during the interrogation at Wenquan Police Station, Chengguan Town, Wen County, Henan Province.
Among the six missing leaders, CAA learned that 72-year-old Ms. Ma Wenqing (known as Xiaotao) was seen handcuffed and taken away because she hosted the meeting at her house. Her house was searched again by the security officials on March 20, 2006. Her home address is Zhangsi Village, Xiangyun Town, Wen County, Henan Province. The other two are children¡¯s minister, Ms. Zhang Jinzhi (44-years-old) from Dayunlan Village, Xiangyun Town, Wen County, Henan Province; and Pastor Zhang Liang (24-years-old) from Bian Ge Zhuang Village, Bian Ge Zhuang Town, Zhuozhou City, Hebei Province. The other three missing pastors are from Xuzhou City, Jiangsu Province. They are Ms. Zhang Suihong (35-years-old) from Hequan Village, Biantang Town, Jiawang District and Ms. Xian Guirong (38-years-old) from Pingtan Village, Xinglou Town, Pizhou City and Ms. Wei Rongzhen (43-years-old) from Qianshanmiao Village, Gengji Town. Church leaders fear the reason these are still missing maybe because they were beaten so severely that the police are trying to prevent family visits.
Human Rights Lawyers Accept Risk and Defend Christians
Meanwhile, two prominent human rights attorneys, Mr. Zhang Xingshui and Dr. Fan Yafeng, have agreed to be the legal representatives in this case. Mr. Zhang Xingshui is the director of Beijing Jingding Law Firm and Dr. Fan Yafeng is a well-known constitutional law scholar at China Academy of Social Sciences.
CAA reports that Attorney Zhang is on his way to Henan to meet with church leaders and government officials.
“This new raid is certainly a contradiction to the Chinese government's commitment to religious freedom,” said Rev. Bob Fu of CAA. “We urge President Bush to press the Chinese leader Hu Jintao on the religious persecution issue when he pays his planned state visit to the White House next month.”
CAA urges the Chinese government to immediately release these pastors.