By BosNewsLife Asia Service
BEIJING, CHINA (BosNewsLife)– Over a dozen Chinese house church leaders faced another day of detention Saturday, June 13, and some of them the prospect of years imprisonment, after security forces raided a house church in China’s Sichuan province, Christians said. There was also concern over the whereabouts of a prominent human rights lawyer because a Chinese official spoke about his alleged kidnapping by security forces.
Rights group China Aid Association (CAA), which has close contact with the reportedly persecuted Christians, told BosNewsLife that over 30 house church leaders were detained June 9, while gathering in a house church in Langzhong city of Sichuan province. “Thirteen leaders were given 15 days of administrative detention, and five of the leaders were placed under criminal detention. The other leaders were released,” CAA said.
It identified the 13 leaders who receiving 15 days of administrative detention as: Wang Fang, Ma Zhongqiong, Wang Huaying, Pang Kaizhen, Chen Deying, Hu Xiuying, Li Daxiu, Deng Shuhua, Chen Jingfang, Wang Yulan, Song Liangqing, Wang Shixiu and Li Shufeng. Five other pastors, Gao Guofu, Li Ming, Zhang Guofen, Gu Lianpeng and Yu Zhipeng received “criminal detention” a prelude to possible “three years of re-education through labor,” CAA said.
It said that one of the detained pastors, Li Ming, was already sentenced to three years of re-education through labor in recent years because of his Christian faith. Chinese officials have denied wrongdoing, saying Christians are allowed to worship within the government-backed churches. Most ‘house churches’ operate outside official control, in most cases because Christians either do not receive permission to worship in other buildings or they reject Communist government interference.
CAA said it was also concerned about the whereabouts of Christian human rights attorney Gao Zhisheng after Chinese Ambassador Zhou Wenzhong seemed to confirm he had been kidnapped earlier this year by Chinese security forces. The ambassador responded to a March letter from U.S. Senator Byron Dorgan and U.S. Representative Sander Levin, Chairman and Co-Chairman of the Congressional – Executive Commission on China, about Gao’s disappearance.
“Gao received a three-year sentence, with five-years probation, and one-year deprivation of political rights on December 26, 2006 for violation of the Criminal Law. He is currently serving probation. The public security authority has not taken any mandatory measure against him,” the ambassador said.
However China Aid founder and president, Bob Fu, described the statement as “a blatant attempt to cover up the truth of Gao’s kidnapping, and a refusal to release his current whereabouts or condition. If he is currently on probation, where is he? “
He said “the Chinese government is refusing to take responsibility for their abuses against Gao and is violating both China’s Constitution and international human rights agreements.” Christians are not the only group targeted by the Chinese government, CAA explained. CAA said it has also learned that authorities in China’s Xinjiang province arrested and detained university students belonging to a Muslim Fellowship on May 5 and fined them each, 5,000 Yuan.
Two of them, Yuesefujiang, a 27-year-old graduate student from the Department of Economic Management of Xinjiang University, and Maimaitijiang, a 24-year-old junior, are still being detained, “and authorities have threatened them with more severe punishment, “ CAA added.
Muslim Fellowship students follow the teachings of Wahhabism, a fundamentalist denomination of Islam which originated from an Islamic missionary in Saudi Arabia. CAA said its contacts suggested that “some of these students have heard the [Christian] Gospel for many years but have never accepted it, yet they will sometimes claim to be Christians to protect themselves and to advance their religion.”
However, “As a Christian organization, we are working for religious freedom for all. As long as these Muslims are not committing criminal activities, they are not subject to persecution simply because of their religious activities,” Fu added.
The reported crackdown on especially Christians and some other religious groups comes at a time when China’s central Communist government is trying to extend its power base at a time of reforms, reports suggest.