|Radio Free Asia: China Detains 70 in Raid on Shandong House Church Meeting |
HONG KONG—Authorities in the eastern Chinese province of Shandong are holding more than 70 people following a raid on a Bible study meeting of house church pastors involving more than 270 people.
Police burst in on the Dec. 7 meeting in the apparent belief that the participants were engaged in proselytizing for the outlawed Falun Gong spiritual movement, according to those detained at the meeting in Linyi city.
“When the police burst into the room, there wasn’t any reaction at all from any of us,” one man released from detention Sunday told RFA’s Cantonese service.
It is unlikely that they would be wearing manacles. As for when they will be released, I really don’t know. It depends on circumstances.
“They divided us into pairs and handcuffed us all together with our partner and marched us off to the police station for questioning. Some members of the congregation were beaten during our detention, during questioning. Others were frequently subjected to mental torture,” he said.
Each person was told they had to pay 300 yuan for their living expenses during their 15-day detention period. The police then refused to give back any of the money when many of the detainees were released after 2-3 days, he said.
The 270 attendees had gathered as part of a fast to honor Jesus’ suffering, taking advantage of the lack of agricultural work to be done in winter, according to another participant, identified only as Pastor Li.
Li said the police acted like bandits, confiscating two computers, videotapes and a video recorder, a television, and some copies of the Bible.
“At about 1 p.m., police officers from a dozen or so different villages and townships burst into the room.”
They had made arrangements to detain all of us. Each police station held 20-30 people. We were detained for three days and three nights. Some of us have now been released, but some have been transferred to a detention center—more than 70 people, in all.
Another participant told RFA’s Mandarin service that the raid was well organized. “They had made arrangements to detain all of us. Each police station held 20-30 people. We were detained for three days and three nights. Some of us have now been released, but some have been transferred to a detention center—more than 70 people, in all.”
Pastor Zhang, who also attended, said the police appeared to have acted on the basis of allegations that the group were Falun Gong missionaries.
“They had got a warrant all in a hurry and then staged this raid on our church, arresting people with no rhyme or reason to it. They said we would have to register with the religious authorities before they would accept there is a religious reason for our meetings. We don’t want to register because if we are refused permission to meet, then we will have no religious freedom anywhere in mainland China.”
An employee who answered the phone at the Hedong district police station in Linyi confirmed that some church members were still being detained for illegal assembly.
When asked whether the detainees were wearing manacles or to answer questions about when they would be released, she said she didn’t know. “It is unlikely that they would be wearing manacles. As for when they will be released, I really don’t know. It depends on circumstances.”
Original reporting in Cantonese by Fung Yat-yiu and in Mandarin by Yan Ming. Cantonese service director: Shiny Li. Mandarin service director: Jennifer Chou. Translated and written for the Web in English by Luisetta Mudie. Edited by Sarah Jackson-Han.
Tuesday, 11 December 2007 ( less than one hour ago)
|By BosNewsLife News Center|
Advocacy group China Aid Association (CAA) told BosNewsLife that initially 270 were detained December 7 in Hedeng District of Linyi City where they had gathered for a Bible study gathering. Chinese officials have reportedly said that the meeting was an “illegal religious gathering," held without official permission.
House churches are organized in homes or other accommodations of believers, outside the 'official' churches backed by the Chinese Communist Party. In a statement released by CAA, an eyewitness identified only as Pastor Li said up to 50 policemen from 12 different towns were involved in the massive detentions.
The pastors were allegedly handcuffed "two-by-two and taken to the local police station for questioning," CAA said. Since Monday, December 10, "150 pastors remain in custody,” the group said, adding that other church leaders were released after paying a fine of about $40, described as an "interrogation fee".
CAA said that the “humiliation these pastors received by being led away in handcuffs as common criminals, for attending a Bible study is an unjustifiable act of religious
It added that the “large scale and high profile of the detentions shows the apathy of Chinese officials in moving towards a policy for toleration of religious freedom,” ahead of the upcoming Beijing Olympic Games in 2008.
Chinese officials have not released any statements yet, but several church groups and advocacy groups have noted a “major crackdown” on house churches and other Christian workers amid apparent concerns within the Chinese government about the spread of Christianity in the country.
There may be as many as 130 million Christians in China, according to some official estimates, about 10 percent of the population. The United States Central Intelligence Agency says up to four percent of the population has been identified as Christian.