China detains over 100 evangelical leaders

By WND Staff

BEIJING, China – The Voice Of the Martyrs, an international Christian human rights watchdog, urged China yesterday to release over 100 house church leaders who it said were rounded up last week by security forces as part of an ongoing government-led crack down on evangelical Christians.

Thousands of Chinese Christians are believed to be held in labor camps. (Source: Free China, courtesy of Assist News Service)

“We encourage Christians to write to the Chinese embassy in their respective country protesting this action against their citizens,” the third such police operation within two months, said VOM, which has close ties with persecuted believers.

Despite fresh reports of persecution of Christians as well as other religious groups and minorities, Australia rejected a bid by an influential Chinese academic and dissident for political asylum, news media said July 11.

United Press International said Zhao Jing, who slipped away from a tour group in Sydney with a colleague on July 21, believes her application was rejected “under pressure from Beijing” as the two countries are currently discussing a free trade deal.

10 years

Zhao was quoted as saying she faces “up to 10 years in jail” if she returns to China for her role in helping distribute books about Chinese persecution of Mongolian and Tibetan minorities in the country. They were written by her colleague and law professor Yuan Hong-bing, who is waiting for a decision on his case.

Similar tough prison sentences were expected for the house church leaders who were arrested Friday, August 6, in Kaifeng City, Henan Province, reported the U.S.-based China Aid Organization (CAA), another Christian human rights group.

They reportedly gathered for a meeting of encouragement at a gathering sponsored by a Henan House Church when suddenly “200 military police, Public Security Bureau and other officers” arrived at the scene “in about 20 police and military vehicles along with six minibuses.”

Children crying

CAA said it had learned from eyewitnesses that no arrest warrants or even official identification papers were shown by the security forces during the raid. Among those arrested was a key organizer and family members, including his wife and three children, aged 8 to 11.

“These children were crying a lot when being dragged away,” CAA quoted an unidentified eyewitness as saying.

Some known leaders among those detained were identified as Mr. Zhang Wanshun from Sanmenxia city, Mr. Zhang Tianyun from Nanyang city and Mr. Yu Guoying from Tongxu county. In addition, another house church leader was arrested on his way to the meeting where he planned to distribute Christian literatures including Christian Life Quarterly Magazine, CAA said.

“These cases show irrefutable evidence of the worsening situation on religious persecution in China,” said CAA President Bob Fu. Voice of the Martyrs urged its supporters to “pray for spiritual and emotional endurance for those arrested, as well as their family members.” It added it was important to “pray for the strength to stand firm, despite the opposition and torture they may face.”

Torture fears

Several church leaders arrested earlier have been tortured and some have died while in police custody church officials, human rights watchdogs and media have said. Earlier this week, three house church leaders were jailed to up to three years for “leaking state secrets” to an American magazine, charges the Christians have denied.

Analysts have linked the persecution to concern among Chinese authorities about the growing number of Christians in the country. They say while China’s Marxist constitution provides for freedom of religion, in practice the ruling Communist Party restricts independent worship by forcing groups to register and submit to party legitimacy.

The government says China has 15 million Protestants and five million Catholics in official churches. Unofficial figures put up to 80 million the number of underground Protestants and to 10 million the number of Catholics who worship in “underground” or “family” churches, which refuse to submit to government regulation, news reports said.