Officials arrested about 50 house church leaders while they were attending a retreat in a village in China, according to a U.S. based religious rights group in a statement released on Oct 20.
China Aid Association (CAA) said, according to an eyewitness report, that at least one of the participants was beaten in Thursday's arrest.
The Church leaders gathered from over 20 provinces and cities to Gougezhuang village in Hebei province, south of Beijing, to discuss outreaching the poor, orphaned, and the floating population in the urban areas, CAA said.
Among the arrest was Zhuang Mingxuan, identified by CAA as a well-known evangelist and pastor within the Chinese Protestant community, who was previously arrested right before President Bush's trip to China in Feb. 2002.
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.
However, spokesmen at police headquarters in Laishui township, which oversees Gougezhuang, and in the regional captial of Baoding, who didn't give their names, told the Associated Press, that they had no information about the reported arrests.
"The Chinese government is systematically targeting the house church movement in China," President of CAA Bob Fu said.
Meanwhile, he noted that President Bush is scheduled to visit China on Nov. 19.
The President will visit China, upon their invitation, to follow up on the list of specific concerns on human rights that the White House passed to Chinese representatives back in Sept., and how the U.S. and China can continue to strengthen their relationship.
"We urge the international community and President Bush to pressure the Chinese government to protect freedom of religion and other human rights," Fu said.
A good majority of Christians in China, estimated around 100 million, worship in unregistered churches. China allows Christians to worship in government-sanctioned churches, but many believers refuse to register because of the restrictions placed on their activities, such as evangelism and some of their teachings.