Freedom House Calls on US Trade Representatives to Protest Violations of Religious Rights by Chinese

( [email protected] ) May 31, 2004 05:36 PM EDT

A New York-based human rights group issued a statement earlier last week regarding the assaults against China’s Christian house-church movement. In the statement, Freedom House’s Center for Religious Freedom urged US diplomats currently in China for trade talks, and those in Chile attending the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting to call on the government of China to immediately cease its assaults against the house church movement. The Center had previously reported on the Chinese government’s attacks on one of China’s large Christian house church movements during which a gathering of 4,000 Christians was raided.

“The Chinese government, whose propaganda machine works overtime to display a moderate image to the world, continues to suppress the religious liberties of millions of religious believers, using extreme measures with impunity,” said Center Director Nina Shea.” The US government should show the priority it places on religious freedom and human rights by raising this new evidence of Chinese government persecution during the current trade and economic talks between our two governments,” she said. “With US trade representatives in China, US diplomats in Chile at the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation talks, and US representatives in Shanghai for World Bank meetings, there are ample opportunities for the US to send a strong message.”

On May 9, a well-known house church leader, Zhao Wenquan was arrested in a town in the Anhui Province of east-central China. On that day, reportedly more than 4,000 Christians had gathered in the village for a special harvest celebration sponsored by a six-year old local house church. According to Pennsylvania-based China Aid, the Domestic Security Protection Division Team of the County Public Security Bureau (PBS) raided the gathering, and along with Zhao, also arrested the church watchman, a 60-year-old disabled man who was later released. Approximately 12 other church leaders escaped and are still on the run.

The detained church leader, Zhao Wenquan, remains in police custody, charged with “disturbing the social order” and organizing an “illegal religious gathering.” He is believed to be detained at the Meng Cheng Country PSB Detention Center. He faces up to three years of “re-education through labor.”

The Center for Religious Freedom is a self-sustaining division of Freedom House, one of America’s oldest human rights groups, founded in 1941. Since its inception in 1986, the Center has reported on the religious persecution of individuals and groups abroad, and undertaking advocacy on their behalf in the media, Congress, State Department and White House.