China detains 47 members of Protestant group

Sunday, May 7, 2000

7 May 2000 (Newsroom) -- Chinese police have detained 47 members of a Protestant group in central Anhui province, according to the state press. The Jianghui Morning Daily said last week that six of the main leaders of the Quanfanwei (Holistic) Church face criminal charges for organizing an illegal sect and illegal gatherings.

The group is believed to be related to the "Born Again Movement" founded in Henan province by prominent underground church leader Peter Xu Yongze, who is about to complete a three-year prison sentence. According to the Hong Kong-based Information Centre for Human Rights and Democratic Movement in China, the government campaign against the group could be related to Xu's imminent release.

Xu was sent to Pingyuan prison in Henan in 1997 for allegedly disturbing public order. The Chinese government's 1997 White Paper on Religious Freedom stated that Xu had violated the law by promoting a cult, preaching that the Apocalypse was near, and asking worshipers to wail in public spaces for three days. China watchers familiar with Xu's several-million-strong movement say that though its followers are known for their strong emotional displays of faith, the movement subscribes to orthodox Protestant theology.

At the end of 1998 Chinese President Jiang Zemin declared a "war on cults," insisting that they are a threat to national security. The government often uses the term "cult" as a general description of groups that refuse to submit to state restrictions. Jiang's declaration was renewed in a speech marking the 50th anniversary of the Communist Party last October.

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