More than 100 church leaders arrested

By WND Staff

Further evidence of the crackdown on religious believers in China has emerged with news of new arrests of unregistered, or underground church leaders, according to Christian Solidarity Worldwide.

More than 100 Protestant house-church leaders, eight Roman Catholic priests and two Roman Catholic seminarians were arrested Aug. 6 in separate incidents.

The Catholics were arrested in the early evening during a religious retreat in Sujiazhuang Village in Quyang County in Hebei Province, CSW reports.

The Cardinal Kung Foundation, which first reported the arrests, stated that nine of the 10 arrested belong to the Baoding Diocese.

Among those detained are Father Huo Junlong, the administrator of the Baoding Diocese in Hebei, Father Zhang Zhenquian of Baoding and Father Huang of Sujiazhuang.

Around 20 police vehicles and a large number of security policemen surrounded Sujiazhuang Village and conducted house-to-house searches to carry out the arrests. The detainees are now being held in the Baoding Security Bureau, CSW said.

CSW said the arrests occurred the same day as a number of other incidents targeting religious believers.

These included the arrest of over 100 Protestant house church leaders meeting for a retreat in Tongxu County in Kaifeng City in Henan Province.

China Aid Association reported the families of six of those arrested now have been given formal notice of the “criminal detention” of their family members. Chinese law allows for administrative detention of up to three years. Family members of those arrested also were targeted in the following days.

Ru Xi Feng and Ma Na, the wife of arrested Pastor Han Quan Shui, were arrested Aug. 7. Xue Ying, the wife of arrested Pastor Zheng Wan Shun, also was detained and interrogated in the follow up, CSW reported.

The mass arrest in Henan was the third known arrest of over 100 house church leaders to take place in the last three months, CSW said.

Less than one month earlier, over 100 leaders were arrested at a retreat in Xinjiang Autonomous Region on July 12. Most of those arrested now have been released, but five still are detained in A Ke Su prefecture near the provincial capital of Urumqi. It is feared they could face long prison sentences. The detainees are Zhao Xinlan, 50; Li Cuiling, 44; Wang Chaoyi, 39; Yang Tian Lu, 39; and Gao Rui’er, 28.

The retreat in Xinjiang was organized by the estimated 5-million-strong Anhui-based house-church network, Ying Shang Church, CSW said.

One of the leaders of the group, businessman Luo Bing Yin, has been transferred from the local detention center to Funan Prison in Anhui Province. Sources report that no court hearing has taken place and that charges against him are not known. His wife, Huang Xiu Lan, and their two children, a 17-year-old daughter and an 11-year-old son, are under intense pressure from the police.

It is reported that his DVD duplication business was raided and equipment confiscated, including computers believed to hold details of other house-church Christians. There is grave concern for Luo Bing Yin. He has been imprisoned twice before, once in 1978 and then in 2001, when his case was handled by the National Security Bureau, demonstrating that the Chinese authorities consider him to be an important figure in the house church.

CSW says these measures occur in the context of a renewed assault on unregistered Christian activity in China.

A number of reports have emerged of a new campaign directed by central authorities to clampdown on unregistered Protestants. An inside source disclosed that the Politburo convened a secret meeting which called on the Communist party and every level of government to crackdown on illegal religious activities and directed the Department of Propaganda to carry out a campaign to promote atheism,” CSW reported.

CSW is calling for the immediate release of all those imprisoned for their faith and is urging China to bring its policies and practice into line with international standards. CSW also is encouraging those concerned to raise these issues with the Chinese authorities and with their political representatives.

Stuart Windsor, CSW’s national director, states: “We are deeply concerned about the current crackdown on religious believers and the escalating number of arrests of Christians in China. It is sadly ironic that the arrests of the Catholics, the mass arrest in Henan and the sentencing of three Christians all took place on the very day that China opened an exhibition designed to claim it respects religious freedom.

“At a time when the world’s attention is focused on the Olympic Games, we would call into question whether it is appropriate for a country that arrests, tortures and imprisons followers of the world’s largest religion to be given the honor of hosting the next world games. If China wishes to be a key player in the world community she must learn to play by the rules which govern it.”