President Bush Visit Officially Staged Church Service

Monday, August 11, 2008

By Michael Ireland
Chief Correspondent, ASSIST News Service

BEIJING, CHINA (ANS) -- As President Bush today (Sunday) visited and attended a service at the Three Self Patriotic Movement’s (TSPM)Kuanjie Church established by the government, a renowned Christian social activist in Beijing was arrested once again by the Chinese police, but has since eluded authorities.

According to Zhang Lujia, writing on behalf of China Aid Association (CAA), at about 6 a.m. this morning Beijing time, Brother Hua Huiqi, and his 51-year-old brother Hua Huilin were illegally arrested by the Chinese police on their way to Kuanjie Church.

Lujia says the two brothers were detained in the courtyard of Hong Kong New World Development Limited Company in the vicinity of Chongwen Gate of Beijing. At about noon, Hua Huiqi took an opportunity and fled. He is now at large.

More than 10 years ago, Hua Huiqi was baptized at Kuanjie Church. Later, he began to worship with believers in the House Churches. As the Olympic Games were scheduled to be held in Beijing, Hua Huiqi’s movements came under the surveillance of the Chinese police in the past few months. As a result, Brother Hua and his family had to go back to Kuanjie Church to attend the services.

Lujia says that because President Bush was scheduled to visit Kuanjie Church, Brother Hua Huiqi has been prohibited by the police to go there for services. However, Brother Hua thinks the police ban does not have any legal basis and is totally unreasonable. So he decided to refuse to obey.

This morning, Brother Hua Huiqi successfully evaded the police squad placed on surveilling his movements and met with his brother Hua Huilin. Together they then rode bikes through Beijing and were bound for Kuanjie Church. They were by arrested police at a location about 1.5 kilometers from the church.

High-ranking officials from the Public Security Bureau, Bureau of Security, Bureau of Religion and TSPM/China Christian Council met at Kuanjie Church established by the government and made ingenious arrangements for President Bush's visit. They did not give the ordinary believers of the church a chance to meet President Bush or overseas media. Instead, ordinary believers were removed from church before and after President Bush’s visit.

Lujia says that informed sources have disclosed that a red slip of procedure for the worship ceremony was a mark for their identification. The red slips were distributed before noon Sunday. Most of people President Bush and the overseas media were due to meet in the church were security people, political workers and people trained by them to pose as believers.

Before the service, an 'old believer' who was baptized at Kuanjie Church nearly 20 years ago complained: “Whether you are a believer or not, no one is allowed to enter the church. When President Bush comes tomorrow, where can we do our Sunday service?”

Another believer who lives nearby Kuanjie Church joked: “President Bush is coming to preach the Gospel to those who don’t believe in the Lord (referring to those police officers and officials). We are already believers, so we certainly don’t have to come here tomorrow.”

After the church service, President Bush said: "Laura and I just had the great joy and privilege of worshiping here in Beijing, China. You know, it just goes to show that God is universal, and God is love, and no state, man or woman should fear the influence of loving religion.

"And I want to thank the pastor for his hospitality. And I want to thank this beautiful choir for singing Amazing Grace and Edelweiss. It was a touching moment. It's been a joy to worship here. Again, I want to thank you, sir, and God bless you. God bless you."