By BosNewsLife News Center
BEIJING, CHINA (BosNewsLife) -- Chinese Christians are suing authorities to regain items confiscated during a recent police raid on their congregation in China's Jiangsu Province amid reports of an ongoing police crackdown on unregistered house churches, religious rights investigators said Wednesday, May 9.
China Aid Association, a US-based advocacy group which represents several house churches, told BosNewsLife that that house church members Cui Chengnan and Liu Riguo in the city of Kunshan demand that the Kunshan Municipal Public Security Bureau returns items and donated money confiscated during its raid on the house church on April 29.
About 20 policemen from Kunshan Municipal Public Security Bureau declared their meeting "an illegal assembly" and confiscated a notebook computer, a projector, a DVD player, a stereo installation, a microphone, Bibles and other materials, CAA said. "They also took away the donation box after failing to break it open," the group added.
The Christians argue that the measures amounted to a misinterpretation of Chinese laws which they claim ensure that "Chinese citizens have the right to enjoy the freedom of religious belief" and that the term engaging in "an illegal assembly" is "a violation of the basic principles of the state's policies on religion."
The applicants also claim that police officers failed to present proper identifications authorizing the raid. CAA said it has urged "the Jiangsu authority to return the illegally confiscated church properties and stop harassing these peaceful religious gatherings."
It came as news emerged that house churches in Hebei, Gansu, Anhui, and Hubei provinces, have been raided and harassed in March and April.
In one of the latest incidents, on April 28, a new house church attended by over 30 university students Shijiazhuang city of Hebei province was allegedly warned by local authorities to end services. Elder Hao Guishen, a missionary in that church, was quoted as saying that his congregation was ordered to close because they distributed tens of thousands of pieces of Gospel tracts in the past eight months without government approval.
Elsewhere, Pastor Liu Huiwen was detained on April 27 evangelizing among Muslims in Dongxiang county of Gansu CAA said, adding that the pastor is "now facing serious punishment for his religious activities in the Muslim area." His whereabouts were not immediately known Wednesday, May 9.
Earlier, on April 18, a house church training center in Fuyang city of Anhui province was reportedly raided while 30 young church leaders were receiving theological trainings there. "The students came from over 100 house churches in that area. After being interrogated for a few hours with their Bibles and note books confiscated, all of the students were released," CAA said.
The names and home addresses of the students were recorded by local police who apparently warned them they would be send to a labor camp if they continue with their activities. The raid came after exactly one month earlier, on March 18, a registered house church in Yicheng county of Hubei province was "forced to close because the church leaders were accused of engaging in "cross regional mission activities" by inviting missionaries" from Zhejiang province to preach, CAA said.
The group added that it has learned from "reliable sources" that the door of that church was sealed and the wooden cross removed and taken away by local authorities. It is forbidden in China for pastors in one designated church to conduct activities without authorization from Communist officials, church observers said.
In a separate development, a Chinese pastor, identified as Zhang Laibao, was fined 2000 yuan ($250) for "violation of religious regulation by studying about religion with foreigners and spreading evil cult message," CAA claimed. More details were not immediately available.
Chinese officials have denied human rights abuses and say Christians are free to worship in government backed churches. Human rights workers have linked the crackdown to concern within China's Communist leadership about the spread of Christianity. Some Chinese officials have suggested there may be as many as 150 million Christians in China, nearly twice as much as recent estimates by Christian rights groups. (With reports from China and BosNewsLife Research).
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