BREAKING NEWS: China Releases Four House Church Leaders

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Stefan J. Bos, Worthy News Chief International Correspondent

China's Communist government struggles to tame spread of Christianity, rights groups say.
China's Communist government struggles to tame spread of Christianity, rights groups say.

BEIJING, CHINA (Worthy News) -- Chinese authorities have released the last four house church leaders who were among dozens of evangelical officials detained in Central China this month, an advocacy group told Worthy News Tuesday, February 24.

They belonged to a group of over 60 evangelical leaders arrested during a seminar on February 11, along with two South Korean pastors, in Nanyang city of Henan province, said China Aid Association (CAA).

All others were already released earlier. CAA attributed their freedom to international media attention, including from Worthy News and its partner news agency BosNewsLife, as well as "worldwide prayer and other international pressure" from its supporters.

The house church leaders came from four provinces to attend a seminar [and] were all evangelical Christians from different house church groups, CAA said.


The two South Korean pastors, who were only identified as Kim and Chang, planned to speak at the meeting when "more than 30 police from Nanyang Public Security Bureau (PSB) and the National Security Bureau (NSB) broke uo the meeting," the group explained.

Police arrested all participated "escorting them to [nearby] Nanyang Jingda Hotel" and took "all personal belongings, including money, cell phones, books, bags and daily necessities," CAA claimed.

Soon after, police allegedly forced each person to register and to pay a fine.  "Police then released some of the elderly believers," while others were escorted to their home cities to be held in detention in local facilities.

All were eventually freed, including the last remaining four house churches on February 20. The two South Korean pastors were expelled from China on February 14 for “engaging in illegal religious activities” and have been banned from returning to China for five years, CAA and other sources said.


Li Dewei, director of the propaganda office of the public security bureau of Nanyang city, said in published remarks he did not know about the matter.

China's Communist government allows worship only in state-supervised churches, which claim about 11 million members, far less than the up to 130 million Christians in China.

Christians and clergy in unofficial churches are regularly harassed and detained amid concerns among Communist officials about the spread of Christianity, according to local Christians and several advocacy groups.