By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent BosNewsLife
BEIJING, CHINA (BosNewsLife)-- Chinese authorities have detained a key official of an influential umbrella group of house churches in China as part of a wider crackdown on unauthorized worship in the country, rights activists and Chinese Christians said Thursday, June 2.
Pastor Shi Enhao, the deputy chairman of the Chinese House Church Alliance (CHCA), has been "administratively detained" for 12-days at the Suqian city detention center in coastal Jiangsu province, said advocacy group China Aid Association (CAA).
Another CHCA Christian, identified as Chinese woman Chang Meiling, also received the 12-daysentence at the same facility, CAA added. "Administrative detention" is the arrest and detention of individuals by the state without trial, usually for what officials call "security reasons".
The practice has been criticized by human rights groups.
Others lay leaders who were also detained with Pastor Shi and Chang on May 31, were released after twenty-four hours, CAA said.
Additionally, a group of 10 people, apparently security forces, raided and searched Pastor Shi’s home on June 1, confiscating several books and other written materials, Chinese Christians said.
The latest reported detentions came just days after CAA said two female house church ministers were taken into police custody in the far northwest region of Xinjiang were they were allegedly beaten.
CAA said the women, Li Tianping and Wang Ling, were detained by police in the city of Korlalate Saturday, May 28, and released early Sunday morning after hours of police mistreatment. "Sources credited prayer for the speedy release," from the Sayibage police station, CAA said, citing local Chinese Christians.
The detentions reportedly occurred after police broke up an outdoor praise and worship service at a Korla square that was attended by some 100 house church Christians.
CAA said Xinjiang authorities "might have been aware of the crackdown in Beijing on Shouwang Church’s" open air worship attempts "and concluded that no outdoor worship should be tolerated."
The Shouwang Church, Bejing's biggest unofficial Christian congregation, has been trying for weeks to gather outdoors after authorities evicted it from its previous place of worship in a rented office space in the Chinese capital.
Since early April at least 170 Christians have been rounded up and several leaders of the church have been put under house arrest. Others have been evicted from homes, Christians said.
Chinese officials have not reacted to the latest developments. However in the past China has rejected accusations of wrong doing saying Christians are free to worship within the main churches.
China's atheist Communist Government only allows Christian worship in state-sanctioned churches, which are heavily regulated and staffed by approved leaders.
However CAA and other organizations have said that many of China's up to 130 million Christians prefer to worship outside government control in what are often known as "house churches" as they are held in homes of individual believers or alternative accommodations.
CAA said in a statement that it has urged Christians "to keep this in this prayer" and said it has expressed "that church persecution in China is continuing to deteriorate."