BEIJING, CHINA (BosNewsLife) -- Christians in China's Zhejiang province faced another tense day Wednesday, August 23, amid reports that authorities destroyed another church building and arrested six house church leaders.
There was also concern Wednesday, August 23, over the whereabouts of well-known human rights lawyer Gao Zhisheng who was apparently detained in Shandong province last week.
US-based religious rights group Christian Aid Association (CAA), which has close contacts with allegedly persecuted Christians in China, told BosNewsLife that "Brother Ni Weimin, Sister Shen Zhuke, Elder Shen Chengyi, Pastor Wang Weiliang, Brother Feng Guanglian and Brother Guo Lijun" were "formally arrested" after their church was destroyed on July 29 in the town of Xiaoshan in Zhejiang Province.
Ten Christians who were among dozens of believers detained that day for trying to resist the destruction, have since been released, CAA said. It was not immediately clear how many Christians detained during the July 29 clashes with police remained in prison.
CAA said it also learned that the Zhejiang government "bulldozed the Dalin church in Shaoxing City", but added it had no more details. The move is part of what local believers described as the "worst persecution in 140 years." Officials have not commented, however authorities have reportedly confirmed the August 15 detention of human rights lawyer Gao.
Officials have said the lawyer, who was detained by police at his sister's house, was "suspected of committing a crime", CAA reported. "His wife and two young children are still under house arrest," the group said. "When visitors came to their home officers of the National Security Bureau (NSB) answered the door. A group of NSB officers stayed with Mr. Gao's wife and children, aged 13 and 2, to monitor them..."
CAA President Bob Fu, a former house church pastor, told BosNewsLife that the latest detentions must be seen as "the litmus test to the whole world as to whether the Chinese government will truly carry out its promise to rule of the law and religious freedom."
He called the detentions "illegal" and stressed that "putting two children under house arrest also violates the International Covenant on Children's Rights." Fu said his organization had urged the international community "take prayerful actions" to secure the release of Gao and the Christians.
"CAA urges President [George W.] Bush and Secretary Of State Condoleezza Rice to personally intervene for the safety of Mr. Gao and his family members."
Rights groups have linked the persecution to concerns among authorities about the apparent spread of Christianity in Communist-run China. There are at least 80 million Christians in the world's most populated nation, according several estimates. (With BosNewsLife Research, BosNewsLife's Stefan J. Bos and reports from China).
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