By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent BosNewsLife
BEIJING, CHINA (BosNewsLife)– Several Christian volunteers and survivors of China’s worst earthquake in a generation remained missing Sunday, December 28, after Christmas Eve police raids on homes under construction in the devastated Sichuan province amid anger among authorities over the involvement of churches in relief efforts, an advocacy group said.
China Aid Association (CAA) told BosNewsLife that “four households of disaster victims Deng Zonghua, Li Baohua, Huang Tinggui and Li Baotong in Jingjia village…” of Sichuan province, were “illegally raided” by over 40 policemen arriving in some 10 vehicles on December 24.
“The reason for the raid is that they received help of Christian volunteers from outside the area,” explained CAA, which has close contacts with believers in the region. Police threatened to destroy the construction site and “beat, swore at and insulted the people at the scene without apparent reasons except to fight illegal Christian gatherings,” added the US-based group.
Police detained Li Zenggui, a local earthquake survivor, Christian volunteers Cao Gang, Brother Yang, and several others whose names were not immediately identified, CAA said. Security forces reportedly also seized Bibles, hymnals, televisions, motorcycles and other items owned by Christians. Police, some of whom appeared to be drunk, “refused to present documents to prove their actions were legal,” CAA said. Chinese officials have not yet commented on the reported police actions.
The apparent raids in Jingjia came as a setback for relief efforts because the village is located in the province’s troubled Quchuan township, which was hard-hit by May’s quake. Nearly 70,000 people died, including 10,000 children, 300,000 others were injured and 18,000 people remain listed as missing. Millions became homeless, as the magnitude 8.0 Sichuan Earthquake erased mountain towns and villages from the map.
Most of the earthquake victims in this area are still living in simple and crude shacks, rescue workers say. There is concern it will be difficult for disaster victims to make it through the winter as in cold weather temperatures can drop to 4-5 degrees below zero Celsius (39-41 Fahrenheit) and it can snow.
CAA said the police raid is therefore “extremely unpopular” among local earthquake victims, some of whom became Christians. “The consensus among them is that receiving assistance from Christian volunteers and accepting Christian beliefs are their rights as citizens.”
Locals were quoted as saying that it is “very unreasonable for the government to attack” Christians “while the government is not able or willing to provide any assistance.”
China’s government had pledged nearly $150 billion over three years toward the reconstruction effort – including new schools which it says will be built to the highest standards, after government officials admitted some blame for the shoddy construction of schools where many children died.
CAA said the leader of Christian volunteers, Xing Guichang, who escaped arrest, has called for international intervention. Xing, a missionary from a house church in Anhui province, reportedly arrived in the disaster area only seven days after the earthquake and has been working there till now.