By BosNewsLife News Center
BEIJING, CHINA (BosNewsLife) -- Chinese security forces detained seven foreign evangelical church leaders, including five Americans and two Taiwanese pastors, as part of a government crackdown on China's evangelical movement, friends and investigators said Wednesday, April 19.
The five Americans, whose names were not identified, are from churches in Greensboro, North Carolina, said the US-based China Aid Association (CAA), a religious rights groups with close ties to underground 'house churches' in China. It was not clear which churches the Taiwanese Christians represented.
"The foreign religious leaders were accused of being foreign religious infiltrators by their interrogators," CAA claimed. Chinese officials have not commented on the latest arrests. But China's government has denied human rights abuses saying Christians are free to worship in state-sponsored churches.
The reported arrests took place March 23, but details were only revealed April 19, amid fears of more persecution, CAA suggested to BosNewsLife. It said the seven church leaders were detained when "over 120 security officers from five different government agencies raided a conference building in the suburb of Kunming City, the capital of Yunnan Province."
CAA said government officers and military police came in two buses and 10 police cars to disturb the meeting of 80 Chinese house church leaders from 20 provinces, who were attending a fellowship meeting with Christian leaders from America. "These 80 leaders represent 25 Chinese minority groups," the organization added.
Although the leaders were released "following a 5 hour marathon interrogation" some were monitored by Chinese secret service as they traveled back to their home provinces. CAA and a pastor who was among those detained and returned to the United States, refused to identify the arrested Christians for security reasons.
"Among [those detained] are two white Americans and three Chinese Americans. Since the two white American pastors are still inside China and some of the released Chinese pastors are still monitored by the Chinese security agents, their names are not available to the public," they said in a statement to BosNewsLife.
CAA said it had learned that the March raid was orchestrated by the director of the Public Security Bureau of Yunnan Province and carried out jointly by officers from the provincial public security, national security, foreign affairs office, religious affairs bureau and military police officers.
It quoted eyewitnesses as saying that Chinese officers' attitudes were "very rude and they refused to show their IDs and even ate all of the food prepared for the pastors' lunch." The arrests were among a series of reported incidents against evangelical leaders in the Communist state.
CAA said its investigators established that a key house church leader, Beijing Pastor Cai Zhuohua, has been forced to work over 10 hours a day making commercial handbags since his transfer to Tianhe Prison on January 11, 2006.
"Since January 23, 2006, despite repeated attempts by Cai's mother, none of his relatives have been allowed to visit him in prison."
Pastor Cai, his wife Xiao Yunfei and her brother Xiao Gaowenone, received a combined prison sentence of nearly seven years in prison November 8, on charges of "illegal business practices" after security forces raided a warehouse where they discovered 237,000 copies of the Bible and other Christian publications.
CAA investigators also said that from February to December 2005, there were at least 1317 confirmed arrests of house church pastors, leaders, and believers in over twenty provinces in China.
"Seventeen foreign missionaries including eleven Americans in ten different provinces were arrested during this time. Most of the arrested were released after they were interrogated anywhere from 24 hours to several months," CAA said.
I said victims have complained of "inhumane torture," including "coercion of evidence through drugging and other extremely abusive methods by the interrogators from both Chinese Public Security officers and State
Foreigners, including two American theological students from Westminster Theological Seminary were apparently ordered to leave the country, shortly after their arrest August 2, 2005. The Americans "were treated brutally and handcuff after they were arrested at a Bible study site in Zaoyang City, Hubei Province."
CAA complained that they were "denied their right to contact the US Embassy as part of the international consulate protection procedure guaranteed by US-China bilateral treaties."
Chinese officials have not commented. "We urge President Bush to discuss these specific cases with Chinese President Hu," Thursday, April 19, said CAA President Bob Fu, a former house church pastor. There has been concern among human rights groups that trade, not religious rights, will dominate the agenda. (With BosNewsLife Research and and reports from China).
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