China Detains House Church Leader, "Raids" Christmas Service

Thursday, December 28, 2006

By BosNewsLife News Center

BEIJING, CHINA (BosNewsLife) -- Chinese security forces have raided a house church in Beijing to prevent it from holding Christmas season worship services while re-arresting an influential house church leader, a religious rights group said Thursday, December 28.

US-based China Aid Association (CAA), which has close ties with the house church movement, said Lou Yuanqi was detained shortly before Christmas in the western autonomous region of Xinjiang.

He was released November 26 this year after 32 days detention by the local police for allegedly organizing and participating in Christian gatherings in the Yili city area of Xinjiang.

"It is believed that the arrest is to deter the Christians from holding any Christmas celebration activities. Brother Lou is currently held at the Detention Center of Huocheng County," CAA said.


"We are very concerned about the arbitrary detention of brother Lou again," said CAA President Bob Fu, a former house church leader who fled to the United States. "We urge the Xinjiang government to release him immediately."

Family members reportedly received no official explanation for the reasons of his detention.

Also, on Christmas Eve, 150 young people celebrating Christmas in a house church in Haidian District in Beijing, were surrounded by dozens of officers of China's Public Security Bureau and the Religious Affairs Bureau, CAA claimed. Chinese officials have not yet commented to the claims, but China's government has denied human rights abuses in the past.

The Beijing church raided on December 24 was led by pastor Cai Zhuohua, who is serving three years imprisonment because of bible printing and distribution work. "All of the participants were videotaped and forced to register their ID numbers. The government officials declared the meeting as an 'illegal religious gathering' and warned them not to meet anymore," said CAA.


But house churches have begun legal procedures against raids and closures. In the latest known case, a house church in Tongling city of Anhui province protested at the local government against what it calls the "illegal closure," Christian investigators said.

The house church was established by Wang Xingquan in 1953. The local Religious Affair Bureau has reportedly threatened administrative measures, including halting church leaders' salaries and threatening to dismiss them, as parts of efforts to force affiliation to a government run church.

There are an estimated 80 million Christians in China, most of them worshipping in unrecognized 'house churches', according to church watchers and human rights groups. (With BosNewsLife Research and reports from China).

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