Chinese House Church Leader Released Amid International Pressure

Sunday, May 30, 2004

Zhao suffered "minor beatings"

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

BEIJING, CHINA (ANS) -- Amid international pressure well-known house church leader Zhao Wenquan has been released from custody, two weeks after his May 9 arrest in Hegou Town, Meng Cheng County, Anhui Province, a human rights groups said Friday May 28.

The Voice of the Martyrs, which has close contacts with persecuted Christians in China, quoted its sources as saying that Zhao suffered only “minor beatings” during his incarceration, and was in good spirits after his release.

VOM said members of his house church group expressed their thankfulness for international prayer and protest after Zhao’s arrest, which was also reported by ASSIST News Service (ANS).

“People sometimes ask us, ‘Can I really make a difference?” added Todd Nettleton, VOM spokesman. “This case shows that we CAN make a difference for our brothers and sisters in China.

Zhao was arrested when the Domestic Security Protection Division Team of the Meng Cheng County PSB raided a group of more than 4000 Christians gathered for a special harvest celebration. "It appears that his 14-day “administrative detention” will be the only punishment for his involvement in this gathering, VOM reported in a statement send to ANS.


The original charges of “disturbing the social order” and organizing an “illegal religious gathering” appear to have been dropped, according to VOM sources. Zhao, 60, has been working in China’s unregistered churches for more than 30 years. About a dozen other church leaders who escaped arrest on the day of the harvest celebration are still on the run at a time when other news from China is not as hopeful for Christians there, VOM added.

Believers of the 500-thousand strong "Three Grades Servants" house church movement in Heilongjiang Province, northeast China are still believed to be in custody after last month's police raids and the apparent murder of one its teachers, BosNewsLife monitored.

Gu Xiangyan has suggested in a letter that her brother Gu Xianggao, 28, was tortured to death last month while in Public Security Bureau custody, after being falsely accused of murder.


The authorities paid her family about $28,000 in local currency to keep silence in an attempt to cover up the crime, she said. Among others detained is believed to be the group's leader Xu Shuangfu, who has been a well-known house church official since the 1980s. Xu Shuangfu was arrested more than 20 times, and spent more than 20 years in prison, human rights groups say.

VOM suggested it is concerned that Communist authorities take two steps forward and one step backward towards evangelical Christians in China, which analysts say has experienced spectacular church growth in recent years.

Last week a “Provincial Religious Working Conference” was reportedly held in Guangdong Province, chaired by the province’s Communist Party Chairman, VOM said.


The official report of the conference reportedly calls for every level of government to work together “to subdue the penetration of antagonistic overseas forces in the name of religion. Also, a secular Chinese web site is reporting that Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao has issued a national directive to crack down on house churches, VOM monitored.

“Our brothers and sisters in China still desperately need our prayers and support,” said Nettleton. “These government directives show that, while the release of Brother Zhao is good news, persecution of Chinese Christians is not going away.”