By Worthy News Asia Service
BEIJING, CHINA (Worthy News)-- Amid international pressure Chinese authorities have released early the last 16 Christians of a house church group who remained detained in Henan province, their supporters confirmed Monday, May 25.
"On the afternoon of May 9, the remaining 16 Christians from China Gospel Fellowship (CGF) house church group who were imprisoned by the Public Security Bureau (PSB) in Xinye" area, said the China Aid Association (CAA), a major advocacy group.
They were released from "administrative detention" although they had not completed their sentences of 10-14 days in detention or paid their fines of 1,000 Yuan ($150 US) CAA said, adding that officials did not require any other terms for their release.
Local Christians reportedly said that the release came amid pressure from the international community and meant that, “the government admits what they did was wrong.”
Some 18 Christians were arrested on April 30 when they were gathered for a communion service at a house church in Shuitaizi village of the Xinye area, Christians said.
HOME CHURCH RAIDED
A dozen officers of the PSB, China's main law enforcement agency, raided the gathering, and all the house church Christians were arrested and detained by PSB officials who alleged threatened each of them with fines, and re-education through labor on charges that included "harming the society by falsely using the name of religion..."
When CAA first reported the incident "two of the Christians were released the same day but 16 were still in prison," the group said. "Many from around the world prayed and called the Public Security Bureau officials in Xinye to express concern for those arrested and request the immediate release of the prisoners. On the afternoon of May 8, 11 of the Christians were released, and, in a few hours, the remaining five were released," CAA added.
'House churches' are named this way as they are often held in homes of individual believers or other buildings outside the official, state-run, denominations. They have increasingly been targeted by Chinese security forces, according to local believers and independent rights groups. Chinese authorities have denied wrongdoing, saying Christians are free to worship within the official churches.
Analysts say however the ruling Communists have expressed concerns about the spread of Christianity in China, outside government control. There are as many as 130 million Christians in China, according to some estimates, one of the largest growing Christian communities in the world.