Religious freedom violations highlighted by President Bush’s visit to Beijing Church 12/08/2008
President Bush's visit to an official church in Beijing on Sunday has highlighted restrictions on religious freedom as a Christian activist was arrested on the way to the Church and the whereabouts of a prominent Beijing pastor remain unknown.
As a result of President Bush's visit to Kuanjie Church, a well-known Christian social activist, Hua Huiqi, was arrested by the police on his way to the Church at around 6am near Chongwen Gate, Beijing, according to news released by China Aid Association (CAA).
Hua was baptised at Kuanjie Church over ten years ago and had later left to worship in house churches. As his movements came under increased surveillance prior to the Olympics, he and his family had had to return to Kuanjie Church, but police had banned him from attending the Church as President Bush was due to visit.
Considering the ban unreasonable and illegal, Hua slipped surveillance, met with his brother, Hua Huilin, and cycled to the Church. However, when they were about a mile away they were arrested by the police. They were detained in the courtyard of Hong Kong New World Development Limited Company near Chongwen Gate in Beijing. Hua Huiqi managed to escape at about midday and is now at large.
News released by CAAalso described how plans had been made to prevent ordinary Christians from entering Kuanjie Church and having contact with the US President or with overseas media. The report described how pre-cleared officials would be attending the service instead.
Meanwhile CAA reported yesterday on developments in the case of four Christians in Wulanhaote, Inner Mongolia, where torture has been used. Family members of Mr Wang Shuang, a cross-province missionary, saw him being hung by handcuffs when they visited his place of detention.
Wang was arrested on 25th July and is amongst four Christians arrested in Inner Mongolia and charged with utilising a cult to undermine the implementation of the state law. Two others, Yu Yongqing and Li Shusen were released on 6 and 10 August respectively after serving 30 days administrative detention. The fourth, Li Li, who is reported to face a more serious charge of associating with foreign reactionaries, has been diagnosed by PSB officials with a serious lung disease, possibly lung cancer. Afraid she will die in detention, detention guard officials have now placed her under house arrest.
At the same time, the location of Pastor Zhang Mingxuan, the President of the Chinese House Church Alliance, and his wife remain unknown,six days after being arrested. Pastor Zhang, who had been interviewed a few days before from an earlier place of detention by the BBC's John Simpson, was on his way to deliver medicine to his sick wife when he was arrested. They were last reported to be held in an unknown PSB office in Zhengzhou City in Henan Province.
Mervyn Thomas, Chief Executive of CSW said: “While China seeks to present an image of religious freedom, the vast majority of China's Christians are forced to worship illegally. Freedom to worship in a government controlled church does not amount to religious freedom and most Christians do not consider the state controls of religious activity that exist in the official church consistent with their faith. China should bring its policy and practice into line with international law which allows freedom to choose and practice one's faith according to one's conscience. Christians still suffer persecution, torture, imprisonment and forced labour simply for following their international right to choose and practice their beliefs. Rather than improving such rights with the international honour of hosting the Olympic Games, China has actually increased the persecution against China's peaceful house church believers. ”
Notes for editors:
Further information on the situation of the Church in China and the crackdown on the church in the run up to the Olympics can be found in CSW's report ‘China: Persecution of Protestant Christians in the approach to the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games' at http://dynamic.csw.org.uk/article.asp?t=report&id=95&rnd=0.5403711
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The run up to the Olympics has been accompanied by a disturbing increase in persecution of unregistered Christians, including the largest mass sentencing of house church leaders in 25 years; a level of expulsion of foreign Christians not seen since the 1950s; targeted repression of the Chinese House Church Alliance: restrictions on religious believers renting properties and attending the Games; and persecution and church raids in Beijing.