Chinese communist authorities arrested 50 house church leaders from more than 20 provinces at a retreat in Hebei Province.

Some were beaten during the Oct. 20 raid, reported China Aid Association.

According to an eyewitness report, the leaders, from independent house churches outside government control, planned to discuss how to help the poor, orphaned and the floating population in urban areas.

Public Security Bureau of the city of Baoding and government religious affairs officials made the arrrests.

One of the church leaders, Dai Hong, was beaten by an officer named Tang, China Aid said.

Among the arrested is a famous evangelist, pastor Zhang Mingxuan, who, along with two other Christians once ran a nursing home in Beijing.

He previously was detained prior to President Bush’s trip to China in February 2002.

“It is no coincident that this kind of incident should happen again before President Bush’s upcoming visit to China next month.” says Bob Fu, the President of China Aid Association.

“The Chinese government is systematically targeting the house church movement in China,” Fu added. “We urge the international community and President Bush to pressure the Chinese government to protect freedom of religion and other human rights.”

President Bush is expected to visit Beijing Nov. 19.

The vast majority of Christians in China, perhaps as many as 100 million, are part of the unregistered church. The communist government requires all Protestant church activity to be under control of the official Three-Self Patriotic Movement, which restricts activities such as evangelism and certain teachings. Catholics, forbidden contact with the Vatican, are required to submit to a similar organization.

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