Prominent Beijing House Church Activists Under House Arrest; Lawyer "Tortured"

Friday, October 5, 2007

By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent BosNewsLife

BEIJING, CHINA (BosNewsLife) -- Two prominent Christian activists of the house church movement in Beijing remained under house arrest Thursday, October 4, while a Christian human rights lawyer recovered from his injuries following six hours of "torture," rights investigators confirmed.

Pastor Hua Huiqi and fellow Christian Liu Fenggang were placed under house arrest since Monday, October 1, a national holiday, the US-based Christian advocacy group China Aid Association (CAA) told BosNewsLife. The two, who were released earlier this year after serving "six months and three years imprisonment respectively" are no longer allowed to leave their homes, CAA said. "Each of their houses has been surrounded by two dozen police."

Some officers of the Public Security Bureau (PSB), one of China's main law enforcement agencies, are even positioned "on top of Pastor Hua's roof in order to prevent anyone from coming in or going out," the group added. In addition, early on Wednesday, October 3, eight PSB officers "broke Hua and his wife's bedroom windows, and then cut off the electricity to theirhouse," the well-informed group explained.

Pastor Hua's 77-year-old mother, Shuang Shuying, is serving a two year sentence on what rights groups have described as trumped up charges to pressure Hua to end his activities for the house church movement. His mother was allegedly beaten recently and, without medical care, "is now dying in her prison cell," CAA said.


In a letter released by CAA, Hua urged Christians to "pray for the Chinese police" and the Chinese leadership so that they "soften their hearts and release my ailing mom so that the Gospel can spread in China freely." It came amid mounting concern about the health of Beijing-based Christian rights lawyer Li Hepin, who CAA said, "was kidnapped and tortured for nearly six hours" last Saturday, September 29. Li is a partner of Beijing Global Law Firm and also serves as an editorial board member of CAA's journal Chinese Law and Religion Monitor.

In published remarks Li said the attack began when he came out of the office building. While he walked in the parking lot, a group of people covered his head and forced him in one of two vehicles without license plates, Li said in a phone conversation with CAA.

The car allegedly traveled on a section of highway for about an hour and eventually went down a slope. The lawyer was apparently brought to a basement where he was confronted with about ten people whom he had never met. He was undressed to his underwear and the group apparently grabbed Li by the hair, kicked him, hit him with water bottles, and slapped him in the face.


"The most vicious form of torture was used" including electric batons, Li was quoted as saying. One of the interrogators allegedly said they were members of Beijing State Security Bureau. "All your family should get the hell out of Beijing. Sell your house and car and get out of Beijing,!" the officers allegedly yelled to him with standard Beijing accent.

Security agents eventually gave him an ultimatum saying he should continue to "work as an attorney, but not mess up in some things," an apparent reference to his involvement in house churches. "After that, they again put a black head-cover on Li and threw him into a wooded area in Xiaotangshan in Changping District of Beijing. Attorney Li had to walk for a long time to get to the highway where he got in a vehicle and went back to the city," CAA said.

The lawyer discovered that the officials took away several of his personal belongings, including his attorney certificate, a portable hard disk, an access card to his law office, a SIM card of his mobile phone, and a business card holder. A hard disk of his computer "had been totally formatted and a large amount of data was lost. When some were beating him, other agents must have been examining and copying the data in his computer," CAA said.


In a statement, released by CAA, Li said "I long for the rule of law and the peaceful progress of the society. I told them at the site of beating that I wouldn't hate them. I wish the light of rule of law would shine on China and all my Chinese compatriots, including those who beat me."

News of the latest attacks comes amid concern among rights groups that authorities launched a crackdown on house churches and missionaries to discourage evangelical activities during the Beijing Olympic Games next year. Communist officials have been concerned about the apparent spread of Christianity in China, which they see as a threat to the leadership's ideology.

"The brutal act of state terrorism against attorney Li and the two pastors sent a chilling signal to all the peaceful rights defenders in China. This definitely represents a new low for the environment of human rights and the reality of the rule of law in the city hosting the 2008 Olympics," said CAA President and former Chinese house church pastor Bob Fu. "If China can't tolerate a moderate lawyer like Mr. Li, who should have any confidence in the Chinese leaders' other international commitments?"

China's government has denied human rights abuses and says Christians are free to worship within the official churches. There may be as many as 130 million Christians in China, according to estimates by some Chinese officials, but it remains difficult to get independent estimates. (With BosNewsLife Research and reporting from China).

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