Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) has highlighted a number of incidents where it appears that the Chinese authorities tried to keep a number of people from getting near President Bush during his recent visit to the country.
Among these, a call for international help has been made by a prominent human rights lawyer in china, asking for assistance in securing his protection. Christian Solidarity Worldwide has explained that Gao Zhisheng issued an open letter yesterday following a number of incidents in which his safety and life have been under threat.
In the Open letter, brought to public attention by China Aid, it tells how over the past week Gao, his wife and his 12-year old daughter have been threatened by secret agents and have even been followed.
A number of time agents' cars whilst pursuing him have struck Mr Gao's car, but amazingly Gao has thus far escaped any serious injury.
The incidents have occurred after Gao's legal practice licence had been put up to be revoked by the Beijing Bureau of Justice. CSW tell how this action has been "widely criticised as being designed to halt Mr Gao's human rights defence work."
Gao has defended a number of clients in key cases, including the prominent case of Pastor Cai and his family -- a Beijing pastor who was sentenced to three years imprisonment for the "illegal" production of Bibles and other Christian resources on Nov. 8th.
In addition, another of Pastor Cai's lawyers has allegedly been targeted by authorities in the context of President Bush's visit to China, report CSW.
Mr. Zhang Xingshui, who is a director of the Beijing Jingding Law Firm was told not to engage in any "unofficial activities" and to leave Beijing and stay at a verifiable address in Tianjin City, which is about 100 miles from Beijing.
CSW explain that Mr Zhang was just one of a number of people targeted by the Chinese authorities prior to the visit by the US President.
To avoid any contact with President Bush, the Xuanwu District Public Security Bureau office in Beijing purchased air tickets to Sichuan Province for Beijing house church activist Mr. Hua Huiqi and his evangelist wife Wei Jumei on 17th November, tell CSW.
Even though the couple were allowed to return to Beijing on Nov. 21st, they were warned to remain in a hotel rather than being able to return to their home.
One other key Christian representative in Beijing, Pastor Zhang Mingxuan and his son were removed from the city prior to Bush's visit, tell CSW. Several security agents from the Henan province forced them into a car on Nov. 18th and were taken out of the city.
After this they were allegedly detained and kept under close surveillance in a government hotel in Sheqi County in Henan. Zhang's mobile phone was removed from him, and only returned as he was freed. Zhang is the leader of the Chinese House Church Association, which brings together more than 50 house church leaders from 20 different provinces.
What President Bush's visit has made apparent, explain CSW, has been the pressure faced by Christian groups in China.
During Bush's visit to China, he did raise various religious freedom issues and also attended a church, and on the eve of his visit the evangelical group South China Church issued an appeal to President Bush to raise their plight with the Chinese authorities.
The UK-based persecution watchdog explain that the South China Church has been a victim of a terrible persecution campaign, in which its pastors have been imprisoned, tortured, hospitalised, and even in one case, killed.
Previously a number of South China Church's pastors were sentenced to death, and a retrial only granted after an appeal from the US President. The letter asks for concern to be communicated on their behalf and for the cases to be reopened in the Chinese courts.
This week, on Monday, the United Nations' (UN) Special Rapporteur on torture commenced a long-awaited visit to China, and is scheduled to visit Beijing, Urumqi, Yining and Lhasa. In addition, he will meet wit officials and visit detention centres during his two-week trip.
CSW tell: "(We) hope that China will take on board the broad concerns about severe mistreatment of religious believers and others and reform policy and practice to bring them into line with international standards."
Stuart Windsor, of CSW stated, "It is very concerning that while the spotlight of international scrutiny and attention is on China's human rights, she would so overtly target a prominent champion of human rights. This is especially so as Mr Gao is seeking to protect the population through the application of China's law. We hope that China will take the opportunity of international exchange to evaluate its policy and practice and bring Chinese law into conformity with international standards on human rights and those who protect them."