Chinese Christian Activist Detained

( [email protected] ) Dec 16, 2003 10:42 AM EST

SHANGHAI, China – A U.S. based monitoring group reported on Tuesday that an internet writer who posted articles supporting the unofficial churches of China was detained as part of a widening police crackdown on unregistered religious activities. While the reason for the detainment is unclear, computer technician Zhang Shenggi’s arrest appears to be related to police suspicions that he helped church historian Liu Fenggang post information on the Internet about the Hangzhou two month ago.

Zhang who was arrested in a raid in the northeastern city of Jilin was transferred to a jail in the eastern city of Hangzhou where two other activists were detained. Liu Fenggang, a veteran pro-democracy campaigner, was also detained in Hangzhou on state secrets charges.

Zhang's case could be more complicated because it brings together two key security concerns for China's secretive communist rulers: Unauthorized religious activity and political use of the Internet.

City authorities earlier this year demolished a number of unregistered churches and detained preachers in what activists said was a trial run for techniques to be used against unregistered religious groups elsewhere in China.

China allows worship only in tightly controlled state churches and regards unregistered congregations as subversive channels for foreign infiltration. Those who meet outside the official church are routinely harassed and fined, and sometimes sent to labor camps.

And while authorities have promoted the Internet for commercial use, they have given long prison terms to people who send or post messages online that criticize the government or advocate greater political or religious freedoms.