Chinese issue jail sentences in house-church crackdown

Wednesday, May 17, 2000

17 May 2000 (Newsroom) -- Two colleagues of prominent Chinese evangelist Li Dexian have been sentenced to 15 days in prison, an Australian-based monitoring group reported. Ah Yung and Ah Kong are among 13 Protestant house church members who have been arrested in the southern province of Guangdong since the weekend, according to the Sydney office of Voice of the Martyrs (VOM).

No details are available about the 11 others who have been detained. Police have shut down house-church meetings and arrested Christians in Li Xi, Tian Wei, Fo Gang, Xiang Shan, Huadu, Ping Shan and Xin Hua, VOM said. The group also reported that another evangelist, identified only as Yiu, was arrested with his wife in Fo Gang on May 8 and held for 48 hours.

The Associated Press reported on Wednesday that an official at Guangdong's Religious Affairs Bureau confirmed that an annual investigation of local religious groups was under way. The official Guangming Daily newspaper published a front-page commentary on Wednesday, declaring that the government "must emphasize strengthening management of religious affairs within the law.''

China requires all religious groups to register with the communist-controlled state. Most Protestants and Catholics, however, refuse to submit their churches to state authority because of restrictions placed on doctrine and practice.

Li Dexian, who has been arrested 14 times since October for his unauthorized Christian activity, reports that he is under heavy surveillance by the Public Security Bureau at his home in the Guangzhou area. Police held the 46-year-old evangelist for 15 days in April under harsh conditions and detained him for 12 hours last week. Authorities stopped his regular Tuesday morning service near Huadu village this week by welding bars over the doors of the meeting place. An estimated 500 to 600 people regularly attend.

Local authorities have placed a sign near Li's meeting place, warning against "illegal gatherings." A translation of the sign reads: "According to the instruction spirit from senior officials, our village is now beginning to develop a safe, civilized, village campaign. To guarantee proper proceeding of this work, related notices are listed below: 1) villagers must personally obey the village rules and regulations to be a civilized citizen; 2) people from outside cannot come to our village to organize illegal gatherings; 3) to enhance rules and precautions, village law enhancers will patrol and investigate irregularly; if illegal gatherings are found, persuade and educate the outsider to leave the village immediately. Those who remain unchanged after many times of education will be dealt with severely.

Many Chinese Christians have been sentenced to "re-education through labor," a three-year term that can be assessed by police without a trial.

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