By BosNewsLife Asia Service
BEIJING, CHINA (BosNewsLife)– A dozen Chinese Christians remained detained, three weeks after their evangelical house church in China’s capital Beijing was targeted by police, well-informed Christians said.
Protestant Pastor Xu Yonghai and 11 members of his Holy Love Fellowship congregation were reportedly arrested January 24 while attending a Bible study group with some seven other Christians in a church member’s
home in Beijing’s Tongzhou area.
They are being held in Beijing Municipal First Detention Centre on charges of illegal participation in demonstrations and illegal assembly, according to a police statement published by several rights groups..
Rights activists said that days before the incident, an official from the District Civil Affairs Bureau visited another Bible study gathering, accusing the group of “being an illegal gathering because they had not formally registered.”
Under China’s controversial religious regulations, collective religious activities must be held at registered sites and presided over by “religious personnel or other qualified persons”.
The latest reported crackdown came amid ongoing pressure on Pastor Xu, Christians said. Xu has been under surveillance for several years in connection with pro-democracy activities and supporting unregistered Christian groups.
He was previously sentenced to two years of re-education through labour after signing a statement calling for democracy and rule of law on the 6th anniversary of what became known internationally as Beijing’s “Tiananmen Square Massacre” when armed forces opened fire on pro-freedom protesters.
In 2003 he was imprisoned for two years for aiding a house church in the Anshan area, Christians said.
Lawyer Liang Xiaojun and other human rights lawyers are planning to represent the detained Holy Love Fellowship members, said advocacy group Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW).
“The detention of the 12 Holy Love Fellowship church members, without formal documentation at the time of the arrest, shows how vulnerable unregistered churches are to arbitrary interference with their peaceful activities,” added CSW’s Chief Executive Mervyn Thomas.
There may be as many as 130 million Christians in China, according to several church groups and officials, one of the largest and fastest growing Christian communities.
Many prefer to worship within what are known as ‘house churches’, organized outside the Communist government controlled denominations, who gather in church buildings.
The number of devoted Christians continues to grow in China, church groups say.
(BosNewsLife, the first truly independent news agency covering persecuted Christians, is ‘Breaking the News for Compassionate Professionals’ since 2004).
Please help BosNewsLife to be the voice of the voiceless. Click here for a subscription.
Follow BosNewsLife via Twitter