China's Own 'Billy Graham' Released From Prison

Monday, September 1, 2008

By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent BosNewsLife

BEIJING, CHINA (BosNewsLife) -- One of China's most outspoken evangelists, Pastor Zhang 'Bike' Mingxuan, was free Sunday, August 31, after he and his wife were released from detention by Chinese security officials, representatives said.

Pastor Bike, as he is affectionately known, can be compared with American evangelist Billy Graham because he has led "thousands to Christ", many of them under the age of 18, which is illegal in China, according to Christian rights investigators. As president of the underground Chinese House Church Alliance, he was also involved in distributing Bibles and other Christian literature.

He and his wife were released Saturday, August 29, some three weeks after being arrested in Beijing, Christians said. They were detained August 6, just two days before the start of the Beijing Olympic Games, amid apparent concern among officials that Chinese Christians would use the occasion to ask world attention for reported religious rights violations in the Communist country.

"Pastor Bike is willing to do everything that the state church won't do," said Tom White, who leads the US-based Christian advocacy group Voice Of the Martyrs (VOM). "The love of Christ is evident in his outreach and his passion for souls. He stands for everything we believe in and has been mercilessly persecuted by the Chinese government."


Pastor Bike said he and his wife have been "forced to stay at four different resort locations" throughout their detention, according to details of a phone conversation he had with religious rights group China Aid Association (CAA). They have been banned from returning to Beijing until the end of the Paralympics on September 16, CAA told BosNewsLife.

Zhang and his wife have reportedly been monitored by some 16 officials of the Public Security Bureau, China's main law enforcement agency, and other government officials. China's government has denied religious rights oppression, saying Christians are free to worship within the state-run churches. Millions of Christians refuse to gather there, as they view them as mouthpieces of the Communist government, according to church groups.

The release of Pastor Bike came amid mounting international pressure, including a petition signed by over 50,000 people, which is to be presented to the Chinese embassy in Washington, CAA added. Zhang and his wife said in a statement they were both "excited and thankful to hear of the response from so many caring individuals."

While in captivity, Pastor Bike reportedly continued evangelizing and advocating the role of the House church movement to his captors. Chinese officials have reportedly privately admitted there may be as many as 130 million Christians in China, much higher than previous government estimates of tens of millions. While it is difficult to independently verify those figures, church observers agree that Christianity is spreading throughout China.

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