By BosNewsLife News Center
BEIJING, CHINA (BosNewsLife) -- Chinese Security forces arrested at least almost 2000 Chinese Christians, including house church pastors, within a period of one year, and many were tortured, a report released Monday, June 26, shows.
The report of US-based religious rights group China Aid Association (CAA), which has close contacts with house churches, details what it calls "main persecution events" across China from May 2005-May 2006.
"In the past 12 months, at least 1958 Chinese house church pastors and Christians in 15 provinces were arrested," says the CAA report obtained by BosNewsLife.
CAA notes that "Many teacher and leadership training gatherings are viewed with particular hostility by the government whose aim is to control the indoctrination of new generations of Christians."
Police officers and religious affairs forces involved in raiding Christian meetings often "mistreated and tortured congregants," while they were in detention, according to CAA investigators. Many were also fined.
The province-by-province report says Henan saw “the worst persecution” against house churches in the past 12 months. 823 pastors and other believers, including Americans, were apparently arrested in 11 raids from July 2005 to May 2006.
"Five American citizens were arrested at the same period of time. Many of the arrested were abused during detention time. After the raid on March 13, 2006 at Wen county, two arrested Christian ladies whose age are 72 and 21 respectively were forced to stripe off their cloths during the interrogation," the report says.
In addition, a disabled Pastor Li Gongshe was allegedly "severely beaten with one of his ribs broken."
Henan province “should be put on notice having the worst religious persecution record,” said Bob Fu, a former house church leader who currently leads CAA after fleeing to the United States. "It is morally imperative for any conscientious foreign investors in Henan to address this serious issue," he told BosNewsLife in a statement.
In addition, an "unusual series of coordinated raids" in May 2005 at 100 locations "netted some 600 believers in Jilin Province in what is believed to have been an attempt at shutting down the growing house church influence on an academic community," the report claims.
A few key house church leaders were reportedly detained “to ensure their attendance at study sessions where they would be subjected to attempts to force their affiliation with the Three-Self Patriotic Movement (TSPM),” one of the ‘official’ denominations.
The sentencing of Pastor Cai Zhuohua, a house church leader in Beijing, and his colleagues on November 8, 2005, for "illegal business practice" after printing and distributing thousands of Bibles and other Christian literature highlights "The importance Chinese officials place on maintaining control over religious publications," CAA concludes.
Chinese authorities have denied human rights abuses, saying they only crackdown on “sects” deemed "dangerous" for society. The Communist government of China also points out that Christians can worship in the official churches.
However Christian groups say most of China’s estimated 80 million Christians prefer to gather in independent 'house churches', as they do not recognize the Communist-backed denominations as genuine Christ-worshipping churches. The term ‘house churches’ is a reference to the fact that its supporters are often forced to gather ‘underground’ in homes of believers as they lack permissions to gather openly in other buildings.
The Chinese government insists that the so-called Three-Self Church, should accommodate all Protestants or the state-run Catholic Patriotic Association for Catholics.
"Local Chinese officials have continually repressed religious activities that they determine to be outside the scope of the state-controlled religious system. Their decisions are often arbitrarily made in a manner inconsistent with the right to freedom of religion," CAA concludes in its report. (With BosNewsLife's Stefan J. Bos and reports from China).
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