Christian Leaders Said Arrested in China’s Xinjiang

Police arrested more than 100 church leaders in northwest China during a retreat to train Christian workers in the region, a US-based religious group said Wednesday [21st July].

On 12 July, about 200 officers in 46 police and military vehicles surrounded the Christians at the Retreat Centre for Railroad Workers in the town of Liugong in the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, according to a statement from the China Aid Association.

The Yingshang Church, an Anhui Province-based house church network, had sponsored the retreat.

The term “house church” indicates the group was not registered for Christian activities, making it illegal.

It is also illegal to cross a provincial border for religious meetings without central government approval, so retreat participants from outside Xinjiang are being treated differently, the association said.

Police took all but 30 people back to their hometowns, where they are being held, the association said. Some are being pressured to give up Christianity, it said, and those who do not give up face charges.

The other 30 are being held at the retreat centre, it said.

Among those arrested was Jin Da, 34, general secretary of the state-approved Three-Self Patriotic Movement of Ningbo, Zhejiang Province near Shanghai, the China Aid Association said. His movement oversees 46 churches.

Also last week, authorities arrested 40 house church leaders at a training seminar in Chengdu in Sichuan Province, southwestern China. Most have been released, the association said, but a Taiwanese couple leading the seminar cannot be found.

Meanwhile, a man arrested previously is being tortured to make a confession, the group said.

“These cases show irrefutable evidence of the worsening situation on religious persecution in China,” said Bob Fu, president of the association.

The China Aid Association is a nonprofit Christian group based in Pennsylvania that backs unofficial Christian groups in China.

China tries church leaders for telling foreigners of Christian crackdown

BEIJING, (AFP) – China has tried three underground church leaders in secret for exposing a crackdown against Christians just days after it passed a constitutional amendment to protect human rights.

Liu Fenggang, Xu Yonghai and Zhang Shengqi were tried on Tuesday at the Intermediate Peoples Court of Hangzhou in eastern Zhejiang province, Xu’s wife Li Shanna and New York-based Human Rights in China (HRIC) said.

Originally charged with “inciting the gathering of state secrets,” the three Christians were brought to trial on amended charges of “providing intelligence to organizations outside of China.”

The men had told overseas groups of the suppression of Christians in Hangzhou city, where more than a dozen churches in houses were destroyed and at least 300 Christians were arrested, with some physically abused.

The court has not announced a verdict but the men face imprisonment for 10 years to life, HRIC said.

“My husband is not guilty,” Li told AFP by telephone as she rode the train back to her home in Beijing after travelling to Hangzhou in hopes of attending the trial.

Li and family members of the other two defendants were kept out of the closed-door hearing.

Hangzhou court officials refused to comment.

“This involves state security. We cannot speak to the reporters about this,” court employee Xu Minghui told AFP.

Police initially refused to allow Li to travel to Hangzhou, but later relented, allowing her go there under police escort.

The mother of defendant Zhang, Li Mingzhi, and his girlfriend, Ye Jifei, arrived at the court Tuesday but were forced by police into a vehicle and loaded onto a train back to their home in eastern Shandong province.

The trio’s arrest stemmed from a report Liu carried out on the suppression of Christians in Hangzhou’s Xiaoshan district last July.

After traveling to Hangzhou to learn more, Liu, a Beijinger, released his report to organizations overseas.

Xu assisted him by printing the report and Zhang helped disseminate it through the Internet.

When Liu returned to Hangzhou in October to carry out further research, he was detained on October 13 by police.

Hangzhou police detained Xu and his wife Li on November 9, releasing Li six hours later.

On November 26 they arrested Zhang.

The trial comes just days after China’s legislature approved a Communist Party decision to amend the state constitution to include mention about the protection of human rights for the first time.

China has called it a significant move, but Western countries have urged Beijing to implement its amendment, not just pass it.