Chinese House Church Christians on Trial as Pastor Flees

Friday, April 2, 2004

VOM urges prayers and protests amid reported crackdown against active Christians

By: Stefan J. Bos
Special Correspondent, ASSIST News Service

BEIJING, CHINA (ANS) -- Human rights watchdog The Voice of the Martyrs (VOM) urged Christians Saturday, March 13, to pray for three representatives of China?s rapidly growing house church movement who it said were due to appear in a Chinese court on charges of "providing intelligence to overseas organizations."

VOM said Christians Liu Fenngang, Xu Yonghai and Zhang Shengqi were due to appear in court Monday, March 15, in the Zhejiang provincial capital of Hangzhou, amid concern among human rights workers about a crackdown against active Evangelical groups in the country.

"These men were arrested for telling the truth about how their government treats Christians. The government does not want that truth to be known," added VOM Spokesman Todd Nettleton.

Police detained Liu, who was based in Beijing, in October while he was reportedly researching the persecution of Christian groups in Hangzhou?s Xiaoshan district. Xu and Zhang were active members of Liu? house church. Authorities detained Xu, a psychiatrist, in Beijing last November while. Zhang, an internet writer, was arrested in Jilin province the same month, VOM said in a statement seen by ASSIST News Service (ANS).


The trial comes days after reports that a Chinese house church leader is on the run from Public Security Bureau (PSB) officers after his church was raided February 9.

40-year old Pastor Chu Wei, who leads a group of over 50 house churches in China and his wife, Yin Yan-ling, 37, were among 12 people arrested when PSB officers raided their church in Huaibei City, Anhui Province, said VOM, which has close contacts with Christians in China.

"The twelve were held all day and interrogated by police, who did not allow them food or water, or even to use the toilet. Then officers asked the Christians to sign a form renouncing their faith and their attendance at ?evil cult? gatherings. Some signed the documents (and) all twelve people were released later that day," VOM reported.


It is believed the pastor fled to avoid a similar fate as the three house church Christians on trial Monday, March 15, at a time when human rights groups have expressed worries about the judicial process toward dissidents and Christians in China.

VOM said it is also concerned about the pastor?s wife and children who it claimed have also been threatened and interrogated by PSB officers.

"Following the initial church raid ?Yin was again taken to the police station for questioning. She was ordered by officers not to talk about God?even in the family?s home. She also heard police say that her husband would be sent to a camp for so-called ?re-education through labor," VOM said

"When police allowed Yin to leave, she immediately warned her husband, and the two of them went into hiding at an undisclosed location."


Their two oldest children, a 15-year-old girl and a 14-year-old boy, remained in the family home, and reported that PSB officers came every night at midnight to question them and ask where their parents are. Chu and Yin?s youngest child, age 11, is staying with relatives.

While Yin has returned home to her children, her husband remains in hiding as "Religious Affairs Bureau officers want the church leader to register his meetings with the government", VOM said. There has been no confirmation by Chinese authorities of these reports. However China has said it is open for religious freedom but that it will fight "dangerous cults."

Some church analysts have linked the crackdown to concern among several Communist authorities about reports that China is experiencing the fastest church growth in the world.


"This is reality for most of China?s Christians," explained Nettleton. "The government wants to control religion, while the unregistered churches give their first loyalty to Christ. It? time for the world to know that religious freedom in China is a myth.."

VOM said that only prayers and protests may stop the reported crackdown.

It suggested Christians in the U.S. to send letters of protest to the Chinese embassy in Washington DC: Ambassador Yang Jiechi, Embassy of the People?s Republic of China, 2300 Connecticut Ave NW, Washington DC 20008.
Tel :(202) 328-2500 Fax :(202) 588-0032 Director of Religious Affairs: (202) 328-2512