"To safeguard the rights of Chinese Christians, to let love and righteousness prevail in China and to promote the rule of law in China, we hereby found the Association of Human Rights Attorneys for Chinese Christians," the group said in published remarks,
We "expect full support and active participation from our friends and colleagues in the legal community," the defense lawyers added in a statement released by religious rights group Christian Aid Association (CAA).
Those involved in the group are Gao Zhisheng (firstname.lastname@example.org), Wang Yi (email@example.com), Li Baiguang (firstname.lastname@example.org), Teng Biao (email@example.com) and Fan Yafeng (firstname.lastname@example.org) the group said.
"We strongly encourage the Chinese persecuted faithful to openly pursue their inalienable constitutional religious freedom rights within the spirit of the rule of law," said CAA President Bob Fu. The establishment of the association came after several reported recent raids in churches, including in Beijing where police interfered with regular church services of Beijing Church of Ark on January 8 and January 15, rights groups said.
As preparations continued for future court cases to defend detained Christians, the authorities of the Xinjiang region meanwhile returned some of the valuables confiscated on Christmas Day 2005 to church leaders, CAA added.
12 House Church leaders were arrested by the Public Security Bureau of Ma Na Si County in Xinjiang Autonomous Region on December 25 during a Christmas celebration with over 200 church members, the organization claimed. All were gradually released "under intense international pressure," CAA said.
CAA said it also learned that a “tortured” Christian businessman Tong Qimiao was recently interviewed by the director of the General Squad of the National Security Protection of Kashi City in Xinjiang Autonomous Region. "Perhaps in a positive development, Mr. Tong was asked to write down how he was severely beaten by a state security agent, CAA added.
He was told that who beat him "shall be held accountable" but at the same time was pressured "to reveal any overseas contacts." He reportedly suffered a fractured rib by a Xinjiang State Security Bureau Agent on September 28, 2005 while being interrogated over ties with a house church in that area.
Because Tong took legal action "against his torturers, his furniture factory and store in a local mall was ordered closed," CAA said. On October 13 and October 14 "many items" of furniture were allegedly confiscated by the local authority.
HOUSE CHURCH ALLIANCE
The Chinese House Church Alliance (CHCA), established last year, said it has urged its member churches in 17 provinces to hold prayer vigils for persecuted churches and Christians. Among other major persecuted church groups is the South China Church (SCC).
Over 1,000 SCC pastors, evangelists and believers have been arrested and imprisoned since 2001, according to church estimates.
Chinese authorities have strongly denied human rights abuses and see Christians are free to worship in established churches. However church groups say most of China’s estimated up to 80-million Christians prefer to worship outside denominations allowed by the Communist authorities. (With reporting by BosNewsLife’s Stefan J. Bos and reports from China).