Relaymedia

50 Arrested Christians Released Under International Pressure

The 50 house church leaders that were arrested Thursday have been released, a Texas-based religious watchdog said on Friday.
( [email protected] ) Oct 25, 2005 10:39 PM EDT

The 50 house church leaders that were arrested Thursday have been released, a Texas-based religious watchdog said on Friday.

According to China Aid Association's (CAA) sources at a high level government agency, the release was ordered by the Chinese central government because of increasing international pressure on the case.

The leaders came from over 20 provinces and cities in China to a village in Hebei province, where they gathered to discuss outreaching the poor, orphaned, and the floating population in the urban areas.

CAA said on Thursday, according to an eyewitness account that at least one of the Christians was beaten, as one Christian, Pastor Zhang Mingxuan, who CAA identifies as a well-known evangelist, was detained among the leaders.

The eyewitness in the report said that the officers came from the Public Security Bureau and government religious affairs officials in the city of Baoding.

After CAA released news of the arrest, an aide for Congressman Chris Smith at the House Committee on International Relations contacted the State Department, urging them to take the necessary actions in order to release the church leaders.

When they were released, a digital camera, a cell phone and some cash was confiscated, while all the leaders were forced to sign their names, put down their ID numbers and get finger printed.

The Association said that the last one released, after 28 hours, was Pastor Zhang, who tried to share his faith to the interrogators.

"The relatively quick release of these church leaders is certainly a welcomed step in the right direction," Bob Fu, president of China Aid, said.

Chinese Christians are allowed to register under the government or the government-approved Three Self Patriotic Movement (TSPM), which places restrictions on evangelism and certain teachings. The majority of Christians in China, however, choose to belong to the unregistered churches.