By BosNewsLife Asia Service
BEIJING, CHINA (BosNewsLife)– Chinese government forces threatened to kill a prominent church leader and his family after beating him, as part of a crackdown on house churches, his supporters said Tuesday, August 20.
Church leader Li Shuangping, a leader at the Linfen house church movement, reported that he was attacked by unknown assailants on the night of August 13 while driving home in Shanxi Province, explained China Aid Association (CAA), a group supporting Chinese Christians.
In published remarks, Li said he was forced to stop his car when a man who seemed to be intoxicated staggered into the road.
He was then allegedly dragged into a black car which had pulled up alongside his vehicle. The church leader told CAA he had been, tied up, blindfolded, and pinned down while three men beat him around his head and body.
One man also allegedly threatened to kill Li and his family members, including his children.
He recalled that during the beating one of the men verbally threatened him asking him how he “would like to die as a result of leading a house church.”
Li said the man threatened “violent deaths ranging from being thrown into a river to drinking sulfuric acid.” He was then reportedly thrown out of the car.
Li believes the perpetrators were working for the local government as part of attempt “to threaten house church leaders.”
In 2009, the main building of the estimated 50,000-strong Linfen house church movement was raided by several hundred police and plainclothes officers, after which Li was sentenced to two years of re-education through labor.
During the raid on the property, Bibles and the building itself were damaged and a number of church members were beaten and injured, Christians said.
Some church leaders attempted to travel to Beijing, the national capital, to lodge a formal complaint aboout the violence, but were detained on the way, rights activists said.
While Li Shuangping and several other leaders were released in July 2011 and other believers in 2012 and 2013.
However some church members remain in prison, including Yang Rongli who is serving a seven year sentence, noted Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), a Britian based rights group with contacts in China.
Benedict Rogers, CSW’s East Asia team leader, told BosNewsLife that he agrees that the latest attack “appears to be an attempt to intimidate the Linfen church leaders and their congregations.”
However he said that Chinese authorities have a responsibility to protect all citizens from violence and threats and that the government must “immediately put an end to all kinds of attacks and restrictions on Linfen church leaders.”
He stressed his group has urged the authorities “to immediately release those leaders still in prison.”
China has repeatedly denied it violates human rights, saying those detained are either members of dangerous sects or violate laws.
The Chinese government says it allows Christians to worship within the official denominations.
But Christian groups say many of the country’s up to 130 million Christians prefer to gather within house churches, outside the control of the Communist government.
(BosNewsLife, the first truly independent news agency covering persecuted Christians, is ‘Breaking the News for Compassionate Professionals’ since 2004).
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