international pressure, human rights activists said.
US-based Christian Aid Association (CAA), which has close ties with house churches in China, said Thursday, March 2, the 36 believers were released within hours after it appealed for their freedom via BosNewsLife News Agency and other media outlets.
The owner of the school in Huaibei City, Pastor Chu Huaiting, a well-known house church leader who currently serves as Vice-President of the Chinese House Church Alliance was among those released from detention, BosNewsLife learned.
However 10,000 copies of confiscated Christian literature were not returned and "given to a government committee, which will rule whether or not they are illegal," CAA told BosNewsLife.
"CAA learned that a top provincial Public Security Bureau (PSB) official who directed the crackdown campaign decided the release after increasing international pressure," the group added.
The 36 students and leaders were taken into custody on March 1, 2006 (Beijing Time) after PSB officers raided the school. The incident comes amid growing concern among human rights watchers about what they see as growing pressure on the rapidly expanding house church movement in China.
Most of China’s estimated 80-million Christians visit house churches, while a minority gathers in the officially recognized denominations, according to estimates. China’s government has denied religious rights abuses, saying Christians are free to worship in the state approved churches. (With BosNewsLife Research and reports from China).