Chinese Christian Activists Return to China, More Church Leaders Arrested

Two Chinese Christian rights-activists returned to China, Thursday, after meeting Bush, while Chinese police arrested more house church leaders
( [email protected] ) May 18, 2006 08:30 PM EDT

Two prominent Chinese Christian rights-activists arrived in Beijing on Thursday, after a high-profile visit with U.S. president George W. Bush White House, while Chinese police arrested house church leaders in other provinces.

Yu Jie and Wang Yi were greeted by a U.S. embassy official, Eric Richardson, and reporters representing eight to nine international news stations.

Also present were Yu’s wife Liu Min and fellow church colleague Bei Cun, whom came with several house church members to pick up the men. Chinese security officers could be seen taking pictures.

Beijing was reportedly furious with the White House visit, that occurred last week after the activists and prominent Chinese legal-consultant, Li Baiguang, joined a discussion forum at the Washington D.C.-based Hudson Institute, a foreign affairs think-tank.

The White House "cautioned" the Chinese central government to carefully "handle the return of the three individuals" – Wang Yi, Yu Jie, Li Baiguang – according to CAA, which often reports on religious freedom issues in China.

Despite receiving warnings, Chinese officials have nonetheless responded to the White House visit.

Yu Jie’s wife, Liu Min, was recently detained and interrogated by Chinese security officers to stop attending the "underground" house church the couples had founded.

Security officials later allegedly suggested to her that Liu should divorce her husband, or they would pressure her employers at a U.S. company in Beijing to fire her.

The arrival of the two writers followed with the arrests of three Chinese house church leaders in Shanghai, Tuesday, and Beijing, Thursday.

At 3 p.m. HKT, Tuesday, ten Public Security Bureau officers riding in two police vehicles raided a house church Bible study taking place. A local woman, Fan Jinlin, was arrested. Police also rounded up two pastors, Zhang Guangming, from the northern province of Henan, and He Shengchong, from the southeastern province of Zhejiang.

On Thursday, house church pastor, Chu Wei, was arrested in Anhui Province by three plain-clothed PSB officers at a seafood market in Beijing. Chu, who was released four hours later, had just sought legal counsel for his house church from legal scholar Chen Yongmiao, before being apprehended, according to the CAA report.

CAA president, Bob Fu, who often comments on religious freedom in China, said to Gospel Herald that house churches have recently begun seeking legal counsel from activist legal experts to "protect themselves using Chinese law."

"They (Chinese government) would rather that these people not have the ability and legal means to defend themselves," Fu said in a telephone interview. "They are worried that more house church leaders are standing up to seek legal counsel, to operate above ground and more openly."

Fu said that though Beijing has shown some reaction to Wang Yi and Yu Jie’s activities, he did not see "a direct connection" between the White House visit and the recent rash of arrests, adding that "it happens around these days."

Yu Jie and Bei Chun – whom is also a noted activist-writer – are scheduled to go to Berlin, Germany, to attend the International PEN, an annual conference of intellectual writers.