WASHINGTON (BP)–A Chinese pastor, his wife and eight house church members have been in custody since Sept. 25 when they were traveling to Beijing to petition for justice after local authorities attacked their church-owned facilities, according to reports by the human rights organization ChinaAid.
Bob Fu, president of ChinaAid, charged that the government has used the Oct. 1 celebration of the 60th anniversary of communist rule in China “as an excuse to intensify religious persecution throughout China.”
“With the celebrations coming to an end, they have no intention of scaling back the attacks on house churches,” Fu asserted in a statement on ChinaAid’s website Oct. 7.
Fu, in an earlier release, decried the posting of Chinese military police around the church that was targeted in Linfen, a city of more than 4 million people in northeastern China. “To have military police occupy a peaceful church is an unprecedented tragic development in 60 years of PRC [Peoples Republic of China] history, which itself shows the reality of today’s situation regarding religious freedom in China,” Fu said.
“The Chinese government has no reason to be fearful of the peaceful Christian church,” Fu said in a ChinaAid news release Sept. 29. “We call upon the international community to continue to urge the Chinese government to respect Chinese citizens’ religious freedom and to avoid shedding innocent blood.”
In the case of pastor Wang Xiaoguang, his wife Yang Rongli and other members of Linfen House Church, Fu said Chinese authorities “have tried to place blame for the destruction [of church facilities] on the church itself.” Fu called the detentions of the church leaders “kidnapping” and charged that the government has “unjustly accused them of inciting a ‘violent uprising.'”
In attacking the church, local authorities damaged a clothing and shoe factory on the church compound and destroyed the newly started construction of a church building along with 17 other smaller buildings on the grounds, a ChinaAid spokesperson told Baptist Press Oct. 8.
The attack was without provocation and “out of the blue,” the spokesperson said. ChinaAid reported Oct. 7 that the regional Religious Affairs Bureau, in an Oct. 3 session, had deemed the church as legitimate “but the government reported they would no longer tolerate the ‘gross violations and law-breaking actions’ of Pastor Wang Xiaoguang and his wife Yang Rongli over the past ten years.”
After the arrest of the pastor and others from the church, ChinaAid reported, local authorities in Linfen “forcibly confiscated all computers, TVs and other church-owned valuables, calling them ‘illegal materials.'”
Additionally, other church leaders and active members were placed under house arrest and under constant surveillance, ChinaAid said.
The day after the arrest, the Chinese government stationed state military police inside the compound to prevent entry to the factory building, where the church had been holding its worship services.
Military police were guarding the building and the surrounding areas around the clock, while the daughter churches were prohibited from gathering for worship. On Oct. 7, ChinaAid reported that the military presence had decreased somewhat in recent days.
ChinaAid recounted that the regional Religious Affairs Bureau, during its Oct. 3 meeting, “reportedly listed these [‘gross violations and law-breaking actions’ of the pastor and his wife] but no legal record of these abuses have been issued or confirmed. According to an inside source, the officials expressed satisfaction that the ten church leaders were being held in their ‘rightful place’ in administrative detention, and the government resolved that the situation must be fully ‘dealt with’ in the upcoming weeks.”
Concerning the alleged crackdown by Chinese authorities, ChinaAid reported in its Sept. 29 news release that it had learned “the central government was and is directly responsible for the escalating crackdown campaign against the Linfen Church. Ironically twisting the facts, the Beijing PSB [Public Security Bureau] has categorized the Linfen Church incident as a ‘violent uprising’ and resolved to use military force to subdue the alleged ‘unrest.’ Reliable government sources informed ChinaAid that a notice was sent to all relevant government agencies over the weekend, ordering them to be prepared to use military force to crackdown on the churches throughout China, in the same way the recent violent incident in Xinjiang was suppressed [in the Muslim-plurality region in northwestern China]. They are calling the maneuver the ‘Xinjiang Model,’ a method that resulted in the deaths of several hundred people in Xinjiang in August.”
ChinaAid has called for concerned Christians to protest the repression in China by contacting the country’s ambassador to the United States, Zhou Wenzhong, by telephone at 202-495-2000; fax, 202-588-9760; or mail, 3505 International Place, NW, Washington, DC 20008.
For citizens of other countries, contact information for Chinese embassies can be located at www.fmprc.gov.cn/eng/wjb/zwjg/2490/.
In Linfen, ChinaAid listed the telephone number for the mayor’s office as 357-209-1044 and the Public Security Bureau as 357-218-8317.
Compiled by Baptist Press editor Art Toalston.