US-based China Aid Association (CAA) told BosNewsLife that Pastor Liang Qi Zhen, Vice President of the Chinese House Church Alliance, was detained Sunday, December 16, by officials of the Public Security Bureau (PSB), one of China’s main law enforcement agencies, in Er Qi District of Henan Province.
"After disbursing Liang’s congregation, police officials took him by force and transported him to an undisclosed location where he was tortured for several hours," CAA said, adding that his ears and right hand were injured during the lengthy assault.
"After being released, Liang was able to identify the one who tortured him" but no legal actions have been taken against the suspects, CAA said. Elsewhere in Henan Province, police in Lu Yi district broke up a local house church prayer meeting on December 4, CAA said. “Five church members were detained and taken to the local police station for interrogation."
The detained Christians, identified as Pastor Shao Guang Rong and his wife Zhang Ji Zhi, as well as Yan Qi Ying, Cui LianZhi and Wang Xiao Jian, were released on bail after 5 days detention and forced to pay an 800 Yuen ($108) "for food consumed during their incarceration," CAA said.
Local Christians apparently reported that dozens of believers in another town of the same district were also detained, but their circumstances were not immediately clear Wednesday, December 19.
CAA said it is concerned about there whereabouts as "House church members, labeled by police officials as "cultists", are often sentenced to labor camps when they are detained…Those detained in Henan Province are likely to face one year imprisonment in such a labor camp."
Police also reportedly raided house churches in other regions of China, including in Jiangsu Province, where a house church in Chang Zhou City was allegedly attacked by police officials during a Christmas celebration.
"The church, led by Pastor Bu Ge Qiao, was in the midst of a Christmas service when police raided the gathering and detained four female members. During the apprehension police assaulted one of the members until she became unconscious. She was later taken to the hospital. Her condition remains unknown," CAA said.
Earlier in Yunan Province, on December 5, policemen and members of the Bureau of Ethnic and Religious Affairs reportedly raided a house church meeting in the Kunming area, detaining several members including, including a woman identified as Piao Guihua, who rented the property.
Chinese police allegedly seized several hundred Christian books and other properties, burning them outside the residence, CAA said. "Police also destroyed the identification cards of three of the church members. After several hours of interrogation, the members were released and told to remove all properties from the residence…The landlord of the building was also instructed to cease rental agreements…"
The same house church was reportedly raided earlier on several occasions in recent years. "In each instance, police officials confiscated the offering donations along with Bibles and other Christian literature," illegally, CAA claimed.
Chinese officials have denied a crackdown on Christians, ahead of Christmas, saying believers are free to worship within the established churches. Human rights groups say however that mostly of China’s over 100 million Christians prefer to worship outside churches that are backed by the Communist Party. "PSB officials continue to threaten church members to abstain from gathering," CAA said.
Former house church pastor and current CAA President Bob Fu told BosNewsLife that the "arbitrarily arrest of peaceful Christians for celebrating Christmas, shows the religious freedom situation of Chinese people…"
He said his group has urged the international community to be aware of "the increasing religious persecution in China," ahead of the Beijing Olympics next year.
Chinese Communist officials have expressed concerns that Christians will use the event to spread Christianity in the country. However, despite "increasing persecution" house church members plan top celebrate the Christmas season, Fu said. "Services continue to be held celebrating the birth of Christ, as members gather to sing songs and worship despite fears of arrest and imprisonment." (With BosNewsLife’s Stefan J. Bos and reporting from China).
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