By BosNewsLife Asia Service
BEIJING, CHINA (BosNewsLife)– More than a dozen house church leaders and Christians in two Chinese provinces were free Tuesday, June 30, after they were released by authorities from detention amid international pressure, Chinese Christians said.
Among them were all 18 house church leaders detained in Langzhong city of Sichuan province on June 9. They were “released due to pressure from many supporters who called” the Public Security Bureau (PSB) one of China’s main law enforcement agencies, said China Aid Association (CAA), a major advocacy group.
“Thirteen of the leaders served administrative detention for 10 days and were released on June 20,” CAA said, adding that the five others “sentenced to criminal detention” were released June 23.
They were reportedly detained June 9 when security forces raided a meeting of some 30 house church leaders in the Langzhong city of Pastor Li Ming. Police released 12 leaders the same day, but detained 18 others, Christians said.
Elsewhere three detained house church leaders of Taochuan Village Christian Church in Shaanxi province were released after serving detention for “engaging in “illegal religious activities,” CAA said.
“Sister Xu Fenying was released on June 19 after five days of detention, and Sister Liu Caili and Brother Huang Shumin were released at at 8:30 a.m. on June 24 after serving 10 days of detention.”
It said that the three released leaders, together with their families and church, “thank all who prayed and spoke out on their behalf.” Authorities arrested the Christians as part of what advocacy groups have described as series of actions to shut down their house church, and confiscate the church building.
Authorities allegedly targeted the church because Christians have been defending legal rights of peasants in their village. On June 5, authorities issued a public notice declaring Taochuan Christian Church had been abolished, CAA said.
In a move closely monitored by Christians, the freed Christians, Liu Caili, Huang Sumin and Xu Fenying announced legal steps against local authorities, including Luonan County Public Security Bureau of Shaanxi Province” CAA said. They have alleged that their detentions, fines and the authorities’ confiscation of books had no legal basis.
They said in published remarks that Christians “spontaneously” studied the Bible, had no links to illegal organizations, and that the and that administrative penalty was baseless because “the Chinese Constitution guarantees freedom of belief.” Authorities also allegedly violated the legal procedure as they did not “present identification or summons papers.”
Chinese officials have denied wrongdoing and say Christians are free to gather within the state-backed churches. Advocacy groups say that many of China’s up to 130 million Christians prefer to worship outside Communist government control including in what are known as ‘house churches’ as they are often organized in homes of individual believers.