China Detains House Church Leader As Olympics Begin

Sunday, August 10, 2008

By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent, BosNewsLife/BosNewsLife Asia Service

BEIJING, CHINA (BosNewsLife) -- As China prepared for the opening of the Beijing Olympic Games Friday, August 8, a key Chinese house church leader and his wife remained detained amid signs government leaders fear Christians will use the event to highlight reports of religious persecution.

The president of the umbrella House Church Alliance, Zhang Mingxuan and his wife Xie Fenlang were arrested by Chinese security forces this week, along with fellow pastor Wu Jiang He, several Christian sources said. They are being held in an undisclosed location in Henan Province.

A journalist of the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), John Simpson, attempted
to interview Zhang, but Public Security Bureau (PSB) officials had banished him and his wife from Beijing for the duration of the Games, fearing they would try to meet with visiting foreign officials.

Zhang is a well-known evangelical leader, who has openly protested against what he views as China's harsh treatment of house church Christians.


As president of the alliance, Zhang in November 2007 sent an open letter to President Hu Jintao, urging China to grant greater religious freedoms.

The letter, also signed by Zhang’s wife, read in part, “President Hu, are you aware that officials under you arrest, beat and drive away the Christians from their homes?” He also spoke of several detentions for his religious activities, including an apparently 185-day imprisonment in 1986, shortly after he became a Christian, and numerous threats, beatings and arrests after he moved to Beijing.

In 1999, PSB officials seized Zhang for preaching in a public place and confined him to a mental hospital for nearly two weeks, Christians said.

The latest arrest came on the eve of United States President George W. Bush's visit to China for the Beijing Olympic Games who "has been a stalwart supporter of the Chinese House Church and Religious freedom within China since his inauguration," said religious rights group China Aid Association.


President Bush was to visit the government-backed Kuanjie Protestant Church, which officials say has incorporated House Church Christians. "In reality however, China's embracing of Kuanjie Church is a misleading and deceptive ploy used by China to deceive the international community into believing that China is no longer persecuting Christians," said CAA, which has close contacts with house churches.

News of the latest tensions came as three American Christian leaders were expelled from China after protesting alleged religious rights abuses in the country. Reverend Pat Mahoney of the Christian Defense Coalition in Washington, D.C., Brandi Swindell of Generation Life in Boise, Idaho, and Michael McMonagle, national director of Generation Life, were taken into custody after displaying a banner that read “Jesus Christ Is King” in both English and Chinese.

They were initially released but again detained the next day, Thursday, August 7, before apparently being flown to Los Angeles.

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