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U.S.-China summit ignores arrests of Christians

President Bush and Chinese President Hu Jintao stand for the playing of the two countries’ national anthems during the beginning of the South Lawn Arrival Ceremony Thursday (White House photo by Shealah Craighead)

Apparently unmentioned during Chinese President Hu Jintao’s White House visit with President Bush were an abundance of cases of continued repression of Christian house churches and leaders by Chinese police.

China’s Public Security Bureau recently conducted two major raids ahead of the summit Thursday, arresting more than 160 church leaders, according to U.S.-based Voice of the Martyrs.

Also, the group’s sources have confirmed that between February and December last year, Chinese authorities arrested over 1,300 Christians, including 11 missionaries from the U.S. and six from other nations.

Bush spoke in general terms with Hu about the subjects of freedom of religion and assembly, said Dennis Wilder, the acting National Security Council senior director.

There was no specific mention of individual cases, he said, only discussion that “China has some way to go on this area, that a modern society that has moved as far as the Chinese have economically must begin to provide these kinds of freedom to their people.”

VOM contacts report 80 Chinese house-church leaders, along with five American and two Taiwanese evangelical church leaders, were arrested March 23 at 9:30 a.m. by more than 120 police officers in the suburbs of Kunming City, Yunnan province.

The raid was coordinated by Yunnan province’s director of the Public Security Bureau, who utilized officers from the religious affairs bureau, national security, military police, provincial public security and foreign affairs office, VOM said.

The officers converged on the conference building in 10 patrol cars and two buses.

The 87 taken into custody were released after interrogators harassed them for five hours and accused the Americans and Taiwanese of being foreign religious infiltrators.

Many of the Chinese pastors released are being closely monitored by Chinese security agents, and some were followed until they returned to their home provinces, VOM said.

The arrested pastors came from 20 provinces and represent 25 Chinese minority groups.

VOM co-workers at China Aid Association said that after storming the meeting, officers refused to show their identification and devoured the lunch intended for the pastors.

Just 10 days earlier, March 13, about 100 Public Security Bureau officers raided a house-church leadership meeting in Wenxian County of central China’s Henan province, leading to the arrest and torture of 80 pastors, according to VOM.

Chinese authorities accused members of the world-renowned evangelical Henan Fangcheng Mother Church of conducting an “illegal evil cult gathering” before they were searched and stripped of their cash.

Pastors said after their release that all those taken into custody were beaten brutally with electric shock batons and interrogated at police stations during a 15-to-30-day detention.

A disabled 51-year-old pastor, Li Gongshe, was among the tortured. Li repeatedly was beaten by officer Wang while the police chief and political director watched, even after showing them his handicap certificate.

Li was taken to a hospital and treated for a broken rib, according to China Aid.

The group also said a 21-year-old Christian, Shan Ailing, was forced to strip naked, and Li Hongmin, a 15-year-old Christian girl from Henan province’s Nanle County, also endured torture and abuse before her release.

Before the China-U.S. summit, China Aid President Bob Fu had urged President Bush to discuss the specific cases with Chinese President Hu.

“The first freedom – the freedom of religion – should not be expended freely with free trade,” Fu said.

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