By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent BosNewsLife with reporting from China and the United States
BEIJING, CHINA (BosNewsLife) -- Chinese securities forces have detained a prominent Christian human rights lawyer and family members, amid an apparent new government-led crackdown on house churches, observers following the case said Thursday, September 27.
The US-based religious rights group China Aid Association (CAA) said Gao Zhisheng and an unknown number of family members were arrested again on September 23, 2007 after he sent an open letter to the United States Congress and Senate on September 21.
In the letter Gao cited "numerous cases" of "grave human rights abuses" ahead of the 2008 Beijing Olympics. He also urged the international community "not to be fooled by the Chinese government propaganda," CAA said. The letter apparently violated the conditions under which he was released after being detained and allegedly tortured for several months.
In December 2006, Gao received a three year suspended prison sentence on charges of "subversion" apparently because of his involvement in defending religious minorities, including leaders of China's mushrooming house churches and the Falun Gong movement. He was placed on "probation" for five years and authorities reportedly told him not to be involved in political activities, or to publish or speak out against the government.
CAA also said in a statement obtained by BosNewsLife that Chinese officials refused to issue passports for Gao's wife Geng He a and their two children after CAA President and former Chinese house church leader Bob Fu sent an invitation letter for them to come to the American state of Texas "to have a two-month summer retreat this year."
Elsewhere in China at least two other house church Christians, identified as Sister Guo and Sister Li, were reportedly detained in Huocheng County of Xinjiang Autonomous Region while gathering for an apparent prayer service in a home with a man recovering from a broken leg.
They were "arrested and are being detained indefinitely at Huocheng County Detention Center" on charges of "an illegal gathering at a private residence," CAA alleged. The day after the September 2 arrest, police apparently went to search the house, without search warrants. "Fellow Christians trying to visit the detained sisters in the detention center on September 11 were turned away," CAA said, adding that the treatment violates China's own constitution and other legislation.
News of the detentions came as reports emerged that China's main law enforcement agency, the Public Security Bureau (PSB) issued a public notice warning landlords of renting to their properties to "five types of prospective tenants," including those accused of engaging in "illegal religious activities".
The PSB also ordered all staff members to ensure that this guidelines are followed.
Several church groups and rights watchers have accused the Chinese government of persecuting house churches ahead of the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games and as a warning to missionaries not to use the event as a venue to further spread Christianity in China, a Communist-run nation.
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