More than 400 Christian college students were arrested and interrogated in a span of about a month in Beijing, a China-focused human rights group reported this week.
Texas-based China Aid Association confirmed that from the end of September to early November 2008, a large police force was dispatched to raid house gatherings in Beijing and in areas near college campuses in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province.
The hundreds of students as well as house church leaders who led the gatherings were detained for interrogation.
In total, four house church leaders were sentenced to re-education through labor for one to one-and-a-half years. The Christian leaders were accused of “preaching to students” and “engaging in cult activities,” according to CAA.
The rights group commented that it believes the large-scale offensive against Christian college students in Beijing and Hangzhou is part of the government’s effort to limit citizens’ religious freedom after the Olympic Games.
China Aid has called on the involved government agencies in China to stop the harassment of house church Christians, return illegally confiscated funds and personal property, and immediately release the four church leaders.
In China, protestant Christian groups are required to register with the government-sanctioned Three Self-Patriotic Movement. But millions of Christians refuse to join the government-approved group because they object to the idea of the government monitoring the church.
As a result, “illegal” house churches are regularly raided by public security forces and its leaders are arrested and sometimes beaten and sentenced to prison terms.
The persecution against Christians has been notably more intense ahead of the summer Beijing Olympics as well as after the Games.