BEIJING, CHINA (BosNewsLife) -- There were concerns Wednesday, December 10, that Chinese authorities would launch a nationwide crackdown on the growing 'house churches, after the Ministry of Civil Affairs ordered the "abolishment" of a major umbrella group.
The Chinese House Church Alliance was reportedly forced to end its operations on November 28. Its president, Pastor 'Bike' Zhang Attempts backed by 15 leading Chinese lawyers and other professionals tried to stop the move but a court has now refused to hear their case, said advocacy group China Aid Association (CAA).
"If this order of abolishment continues to be used in other expanded areas, this could well cause the abolishment of all the Christian house churches," the intellectuals supporting the pastor's legal efforts said in published remarks.
Besides the abolishment order, authorities also briefly detained an American reporter and 17 Christians praying in the residence of Pastor Bike, before releasing them the same day, November 28, but officials confiscated over 600 Bibles computers, video and compact disk players and other personal properties, CAA said. "All confiscated items were returned three days later except for the Bibles and Christian literature."
In addition, CAA said, it has learned that as part of the apparent crackdown the brother of detained Christian bookstore owner Shi Weihan has been beaten by police for his involvement in the business.
Shi Weihan, has been imprisoned in Beijing's Haidian District Detention Center since March 19, 2008, for printing and distributing Bibles and other Christian literature. "No charges have ever been filed against Shi Weihan. He is being held under "administrative detention" and could be held up to three years without any charges," CAA said, adding that his wife is now "bearing much of the burden for their family."
CAA said President George W. Bush has been personally following the case, demanding regular updates from the United States embassy in Beijing. Chinese officials have consistently denied religious rights abuses, but claim they want to protect the country against "dangerous sects" and demand that Christians act within the laws of the Communist nation.