Beijing Police Release Nearly All Shouwang Church Detainees, Pastor & Two Others Still in Custody

Monday, April 11, 2011

China Aid Association
(Beijing – April 11, 2011) Twenty-four hours after a crackdown on a house church that had lost its indoor meeting site and was attempting to hold Sunday worship services outdoors, Beijing police had released all but a handful of the at least 169 Christians who were detained, according to ChinaAid sources.
Western news reports described the move against the Shouwang Church, one of Beijing’s largest house churches, as the largest crackdown on unregistered Protestant congregations in years.  
By Monday morning, only a pastor and his wife and one woman believer were still in police custody. However, surveillance vehicles remained outside the apartment buildings of many Shouwang members, and ChinaAid believes that their freedom of movement will remain restricted for some time to come.

Church sources said at least 169 people were detained by police when they turned up at at 8:30 a.m at a previously designated public area in western Beijing’s Haidian district for their normally scheduled Sunday worship service. Some were immediately loaded into several buses and taken away by some of the up to 1000 police who turned out in force to seal off the site in the Zhongguancun commercial area. Most were taken to a nearby elementary school, while others were held in local police stations. In almost all cases, the Christians sang hymns and worshiped while in detention.
Police interrogated the detainees, took down their names and other personal details, fingerprinted them and ordered some to write statements of repentance and personal guarantees. Many refused and were not released until well after midnight.
Authorities had also put two dozen of Shouwang’s clergy and lay leaders under informal house arrest beginning Saturday night to prevent them from going to the meeting site. Members of the congregation who showed up but managed to elude the police regrouped in smaller numbers in nearby locations and proceeded to hold their regular Sunday worship service using previously distributed worship order sheets that the church leadership had prepared. One such group, gathered at a nearby Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant, was broken up mid-service by police  who sent the Christians scattering. A tweet from a church member described the police as behaving “like wolves and tigers.”
The church’s website was taken down, and cell phone coverage in the area of the meeting site was shut down, in an apparent effort to keep news of the crackdown from getting out.
In the days before the planned outdoor worship service, Shouwang church members were called in for talks by various authorities, including the local police, work supervisors, school leaders and neighborhood committees, who warned them not to participate in the outdoor meeting on Sunday.
At least one Western reporter, the correspondent for The Toronto Star, was detained for several hours and had his press credentials confiscated. Other foreign reporters were turned away from the area by police.
See BBC footage of the police show of force here:
Shouwang’s 1000-member church had been evicted from its rented meeting space in a Haidian restaurant. Unable to find a suitably large alternative site for its worship services because of government pressure not to rent space to the church, Shouwang’s leadership have made the controversial decision to meet outdoors as they had done once before, in November 2009, under similar circumstances. The church has been unable to close a deal to buy its own property after the seller, under government pressure, refused to sign the contract and hand over the keys.

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