Wave of arrests resumes for Chinese evangelist

Tuesday, February 22, 2000

22 February 2000 (Newsroom) -- After a respite of one month, Chinese house church leader Li Dexian was detained by police on Tuesday for the 10th time since October. Public Security Bureau officers arrested the 45-year-old Protestant evangelist as he led his weekly 10 a.m. Bible study in Huadu, west of Guangzhou, a source in Hong Kong told Newsroom.

Li remained in custody until Tuesday evening, said the source, who spoke with the church leader shortly after his release. The source, who wished to remain anonymous for security reasons, said that Li had not been arrested since January 18 because law enforcement officials were taking time off for the Chinese New Year. "But now they are back to business as usual," he said.

The source said that authorities have undertaken a strategy of "trying to wear him down" and are amazed that Li continues his ministry. "It is a conflict of wills," he said. "(Li) is determined that he will continue to preach, and they are determined to stop him. I think there is a growing respect from them; they realize they have a man of character and worth in their sights."

The fact that Li has foreign advocates who monitor his situation likely has prevented him from being sentenced to re-education through labor, as has been the case with other house church leaders, the source said. That sentence does not require a trial.

The 600 who attend Li's weekly Bible study in Huadu are "strengthened in their resolve to go on," the source said. "Li is a very wise man; he is training the men around him and teaching them that this is part of the package in China -- that you are going to face persecution."

The current wave of arrests began on October 11 when about 200 police arrived at Li's meeting place in Huadu and destroyed the building's annex.

Chinese authorities demand that Li place his Christian activities under the control of the state by registering and becoming a member of the official Protestant church -- the Three-self Patriotic Movement. Local Public Security officers have told Li that the decision to arrest him comes from higher officials in Beijing. China’s unregistered churches have come under increased pressure during the ongoing crackdown on the Falun Gong spiritual movement.

Li was not physically harmed during this latest detention, the source said, but he has been beaten by police several times since October and also during previous waves of arrests.

According to Amnesty International, Li was severely beaten during four arrests that took place within four months in 1994 and 1995. In December 1998, PSB officers held Li for 15 days for "illegal preaching" after arresting him in a raid on his meeting place and seizing Bibles and other property.

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Used with permission.