House Church in Hebei Repeatedly Targeted for Persecution; Members Detained, Sent to Labor Camp

Friday, March 9, 2012

China Aid Association
(Zhuozhou, Hebei—March 9, 2012) A house church belonging to the China for Christ denomination has been the target of months of attacks from local authorities in the city of Zhuozhou, Hebei province, with church members being illegally detained, interrogated and sent to labor camps simply for attending worship services or other church activities, ChinaAid has learned.

Local authorities have also forcibly confiscated 170,000 yuan ($27,000) of church funds without following any of the required legal procedures. They have also sent people to labor camps and demolished the home where the church was meeting.

On the afternoon of Nov 8, 2011, 52 villagers met for worship in the home of fellow villager Wang Jinfeng in Xuyi village, Xuliying, Diawo Township in Zhuozhou. At about 4:15, about 140 officials from the local police department, the national security bureau, the civil affairs bureau, the religious affairs bureau and other government departments, led by police from the local police station, surrounded the house where the Christians were meeting, then entered the room where the service was being held and ordered all the attendees not to move while they started filming.

A religious affairs bureau official announced that the meeting was an illegal service because it had not been registered with or approved by the government departments supervising religious affairs. He ordered that they end the meeting immediately and submit to an investigation. At the same time, the authorities found a bag under a bed containing 170,000 yuan ($27,000) donated by church members and announced that they were confiscating the funds but refused to give a receipt as required by law for taking the property.

They then took everywhere in the room under guard to a third-floor classroom of the Diaowo high school, where they took down everyone’s personal details and interrogated them. At about 8:20 p.m., they transferred everyone under guard to a first-floor classroom and registered everyone again, then assigned everyone to separate rooms where they were interrogated again but this time with a note taker transcribing the interrogation. Shortly after midnight, they ordered everyone to sign guarantee documents. The detainees were then taken under guard back to the original meeting place, where they were guarded by several village officials and police. Finally, at about 6 a.m., after once again registering everyone, the guards left.

However, Zhang Suhua, Lee Bangrong and Liu Cuiying were taken to the police station where they continued to be held. Four days later, Zhang and Li were released, but Liu continued to be detained. During the time that Liu was in custody, local officials threatened her family daily, saying the house where the church had been meeting had to be demolished. (The house was built on land that belonged to Liu’s sister.) Finally, at noon on Nov. 15, the seventh day of Liu’s detention, at a time when Liu’s husband, Wang Jinfeng, was not around, the house was torn down by people working for the village Communist Party committee. Liu was released the same afternoon.

Then on Christmas Day, as some church members were holding a Christmas party on the third floor of the Zhuozhou City Bank Building, local police dispatched more than 100 police officers to break up the meeting. They also took five believers into custody. Zhang Suhua and Li Xiuzhi were released that same evening, but Liu Ying, Yang Wenyan and Liu Cuiying were sent to the Zhuozhou City detention center. Liu Ying was sentenced to 15 days of administrative detention. After 12 days of detention, Liu Cuiying and Yang Wenyan were sent by the public security bureau to the Shijiazhuang Forced Labor Camp for “organizing and participating in illegal cult meetings.”

To date, neither the public security organs nor the local government has followed any of the legally required procedures or produced any judicial documents to the families. The detainees' families have no information about why the three have been sent to the labor camp, how long they will be there, or how they are faring. Without any paperwork, the family members also cannot go to the labor camp to visit the detainees. The local public security organs and government departments have ignored all the inquiries made by the family members.

ChinaAid founder and president Bob Fu said, “To arbitrarily sentence Christians to labor camp simply because they were peacefully practicing their faith certainly constitutes active religious persecution by the Chinese government.”

“This report shows that the illegal brutal destruction of houses of worship is a further violation of the other basic constitutionally guaranteed rights Chinese citizens to protection of life and property,” he added.

“We urge the Chinese authorities to immediately release these believers and take concrete actions to hold these abusive officers accountable and make proper remedy for the damage the authorities caused,” Fu said.

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