Chinese Authorities Raid House Churches, Arrest 80

Monday, July 31, 2006

Well-known pastor Wang Zaiqing held for printing Christian literature.
by Xu Mei

NANJING, July 31 (Compass Direct News) -- China Aid Association (CAA) reported that government raids of two house churches last week resulted in the arrest of about 80 Christians.

Six policemen, including two plainclothes officers, interrupted a fellowship meeting of 43 people in Hubei province, south of Beijing, and detained 20 of them on July 21, according to CAA. Eight of the congregants were sentenced to 10 to 15 days of jail, while the rest were released by 5:30 p.m. that day. Police also confiscated Christian books from the home.

In Henan province, authorities on July 19 detained and interrogated more than 60 house church members, CAA said. They were released later the same day.

More Christians were arrested in Henan from May 2005 to May 2006 than any other province, with 11 incidents of persecution resulting in 823 arrests, according to a CAA recent report. Henan accounted for 42 percent of the total number of confirmed arrests of Protestant believers in the entire country.

China experts point out that corrupt Public Security Bureau (PSB) officers in Henan have been known to regularly round up Christians and fine them large amounts. The average annual income of a Henan farmer is only about US$250, but authorities have fined them hundreds and even thousands of yuan (trading at about 8 per U.S. dollar); often, their furniture, goods and livestock are arbitrarily confiscated.

Hubei had the fifth-highest number of arrested Christians during that time period, according to the study, with two incidents resulting in 44 arrests.

Surprisingly, Xinjiang had the second highest number of arrests of Christians – 254, from five incidents of persecution – in part because of the vigorous growth of house churches among the ethnic Han Chinese in a province whose traditionally Muslim population has drawn tight government control. Observers note that the availability of detailed research on the area may be another significant factor in the high number of arrests.

The provinces with the third- and fourth-highest numbers of Christian persecution, according to the CAA, are Jilin with 640 arrests and Heibei with 150.

In Jilin, a large number of those arrested during the period were students and professors from local universities. China watchers are undecided about whether this represented a local crackdown and not a deliberate pilot-project to curb the growth of evangelical Christianity on college and school campuses across China.

Although only three Christians were arrested in Beijing during the period, the fact that there were four incidents of persecution has alarmed CAA’s contacts within China. The Ark Church was raided, although its leaders – all well-educated intellectuals – had previously expressed some willingness to register with the authorities if it would enable the church to undertake social welfare projects.

Also in Beijing, Pastor Cai Zhuohua was sentenced in November 2005 for printing thousands of Bibles and other Christian books. Such government actions give observers no real confidence that China will relax harsh religious policies in the run-up to the Olympics in Beijing in 2008.

In all, CAA lists 37 incidents of persecution from 15 Chinese provinces. The number of Christians arrested during the period was 1,958, though experts believe it is unlikely that the 16 other provinces had no incidents of persecution; they believe a number of undocumented cases would add considerably to that total.

Arrested for Printing Books

Notably, CAA reported that well-known house church pastor Wang Zaiqing of Haozhou, Anhui province, was arrested on May 26 for “illegal business practices” – printing and distributing Christian literature.

A church-planter and preacher in Anhui and the surrounding provinces in east China, Pastor Wang had been printing and distributing Christian books to meet the need for Christian literature among believers among burgeoning house churches.

On April 25 and 26, PSB officials raided his home, confiscating hymn books, Christian literature, and his daughter’s electronic piano. On the first occasion, both he and his wife were summoned for questioning by the PSB of Huainan City in Anhui. They were accused of “illegally printing, editing and distributing Christian propaganda material.”

At noon on April 28, authorities placed Pastor Wang, who was disabled at the age 5 from polio and walks with a crutch, under criminal detention. His wife, however, did not receive the formal warrant for his arrest until a month later, May 26. He was being held at the No. 1 Detention Center in Huainan City.

Pastor Wang has been arrested on charges similar to those brought against Beijing house-church pastor Cai Zhuohua, who was sentenced last year to three years in prison for printing Christian literature. Another house-church leader, Liu Yuhua from Shandong province, was also reportedly arrested on similar charges on April 26.

Copyright 2006 Compass Direct News