Most Christians detained in Beijing freed: group

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

AFP  Tue Apr 12, 2:26 am ET
imageBEIJING (AFP) – Almost all of the more than 150 Christians rounded up in Beijing when they tried to pray outdoors have been released, but church leaders remain under house arrest, a US-based rights group said Tuesday.
AFP/File – Chinese worshippers sing holy songs during Christmas Eve mass at a Catholic church in Beijing. Almost …

On Sunday, Beijing police arrested at least 169 worshippers from the Shouwang "house church" -- not formally recognised by the government -- in Beijing's western Haidian district, China Aid said.
The incident came after the United States and the United Nations expressed concerns over a growing crackdown on dissent across China in which artists, lawyers, writers, activists and intellectuals have been detained.
"Only a pastor and his wife and one woman believer are still in police custody," China Aid director Bob Fu told AFP by telephone.
"Surveillance vehicles remain outside the apartment buildings of many Shouwang members. We believe that their freedom of movement will remain restricted for some time to come."
The Shouwang church was kicked out of its regular meeting place in recent weeks when a rental agreement was not renewed, allegedly under government pressure, Fu said.
Efforts to secure a new meeting place have met with government obstruction, he added.
Church leaders would again seek to hold services on Sunday, but have yet to announce where such an event could take place, Fu said.
China's crackdown on government critics comes amid persistent calls by shadowy activists to stage "Jasmine" rallies, echoing those that have rocked the Arab world.
Religious authorities have urged Christians not to heed the calls for "street gatherings" planned each Sunday in public places nationwide, according to a report carried by Xinhua news agency late Monday.
"Chinese Christians should love the country and protect social stability, instead of following calls of some anti-China forces who attempt to sabotage China," Xinhua cited Shen Xuebin, a government religious administrator, as saying.
About 15 million Protestants and five million Catholics worship at official churches in China, according to recent official data.
But more than 50 million others are believed to pray at "underground" or "house" churches, which refuse to submit to government regulation.

China Aid Contacts
Rachel Ritchie, English Media Director
Cell: (432) 553-1080 | Office: 1+ (888) 889-7757 | Other: (432) 689-6985