Chinese police arrest 130 Christians, among them three Americans

Wednesday, August 23, 2000

23 August 2000 (Newsroom) -- Chinese police detained 130 members of a Protestant house church movement in central Henan province on Wednesday, according to a Hong Kong-based human rights group. Among the arrested were three American citizens, the Information Centre for Human Rights and the Democratic Movement in China said.

The church members are part of the Fangcheng Church founded by Zhang Rongliang, who was sentenced to two years in labor camp last December. Authorities released Zhang in February, citing health reasons, but five other church leaders sentenced at the same time continue to serve terms of one to three years. Zhang was accused of being the leader of a cult and therefore dangerous to society.

Chinese President Jiang Zemin declared a "war on cults" in 1998, which has included a crackdown on unregistered churches. China forbids religious believers from worshiping outside of state-sanctioned groups. Authorities have tried to brand Zhang's movement as heretical, but the house church leader was a co-signer in 1998 of a "Confession of Faith," which aligned with mainstream Protestant doctrine. One of the document's purposes was to help convince the government to recognize the house church movements.

The Hong Kong rights group said the three Americans arrested, all residents of California, were Henry Chu, Patricia Lan, and Sandee Lin. The church members are being held at the Xihua county jail, the Information Centre said.

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