Activist for China’s unofficial Christian church has been detained after investigating the destruction of churches by authorities in eastern China, human rights groups say.
Liu Fenggang, 43, was detained on Oct. 13 in the city of Hangzhou while visiting with leaders of the destroyed churches who had just been released from almost two months in detention.
Police who searched Liu’s home in Beijing later that week confiscated two computers, an address book, cameras, documents and other items, said Bob Fu, of the China Aid Association, based in Pennsylvania.
Police told Liu’s wife, Bi Yuxia, that Liu would be charged with revealing state secrets, but did not present her with the official notification of arrest needed to hire a lawyer, Fu said.
“This is outrageous and absurd,” Fu said. Liu was simply trying to help hire attorneys for the Christian activists and pass on assistance from other unofficial churches, he said.
Similar reports were also issued by New York-based Human Rights in China and other overseas rights monitoring groups.
Authorities haven’t confirmed Liu’s arrest and calls on Monday to local government offices rang unanswered. A man who picked up the phone at the Xiaoshan District Jail where Liu is reportedly being held said he “doesn’t provide such information services.” The man declined to give his name.
Since July, at least 10 Christian churches have been torn down by authorities in the Hangzhou area who labeled them “illegal religious venues,” the Hong Kong-based Information Center for Human Rights and Democracy said.
Since China’s officially atheistic Communist authorities allow worship only in state-monitored churches, such venues and their worshippers are subject to frequent harassment.
While the official Protestant church, the awkwardly named “Three-Self Patriotic Movement,” claims 10 million followers, up to 50 million are believed to worship in unofficial Protestant congregations.
Among the buildings destroyed in Hangzhou’s Xiaoshan District was the “Tedusan” church, a converted warehouse that could hold 500 people, the Information Center reported. Although the congregation paid rent and had permission to remodel the interior, the building was flattened by police with bulldozers on Sept. 20, the center said.
In separate report, Fu said unofficial church activist Zhang Yinan is being held on suspicion of “conspiracy to subvert the national government and socialist system.”
Zhang was arrested on Sept. 26 with another activist, Xiao Biguang, while the men were attending a friend’s wedding in the central province of Henan.
Formal notice of Liu’s arrest was handed on Saturday to his wife, Ding Guizhen, who was also detained for several days, Fu said.