China authorities in Zhejiang incarcerated a pastor, his wife and son on Tuesday for contacting U.S. Consulate officials in Shanghai and foreign journalists, according to reports from China Aid, a Christian international human rights organization based in Texas.
Pastor Wen Xiaowu and his wife, both of whom provided legal defense counsel for churches affected by an ongoing cross demolition campaign, were criminally detained on April 26, and charged with "gathering a crowd to disturb social order." His son, Wen "Eden" Yidian also was taken into police custody on the same day for "obstructing public service," according to China Aid observers.
Xiaowu leads a house church in Wenzhou, reports Christian Today.
Xiaowu's family members, however, state they believe the detentions are in response to the couple's meetings with officials from the U.S. Consulate in Shanghai and a number of foreign journalists, during which they released developments on the cross demolitions.
Zhang Kai, a prominent human rights lawyer, experienced a similarly sudden detention in August 2015 just a few days before he was scheduled to meet with U.S. Ambassador for International Religious Freedom, David Saperstein. Zhang was released after seven months' detention in 'black jail' in March.
Zhang had represented more than 100 churches fighting orders to remove their crosses, reports Christian Today.
China Aid branded Xiaowu's arrest "a very disturbing, chilling development."
Xiaowu and his wife reportedly are being held in the Rui'an Detention Center in Zhejiang. They have not been allowed to meet with family members. Authorities also confiscated various personal items, including computers, from their home in Wenzhou, according to China Aid sources.
"Arresting Pastor Wen and his family members for these meetings is a direct slap in the face to the U.S. government and the American people," said China Aid president Bob Fu, who is a friend of the Wen family.
"He is a man with integrity and passion who is always ready to help others. Despite the constant threats state security agents posed to him and his family in the past few years, he and his wife have been boldly providing legal counsel for churches and persecuted human rights defenders in Zhejiang. I urge the U.S. government to work with the Chinese authorities for the immediate release of the Wen family and other innocent church leaders who are under arrest."
The couple is thought to have briefed foreign journalists about the forced cross demolition campaign in Zhejiang.
The Communist Party is believed to be becoming progressively more suspicious of the influence of Christianity, which is experiencing significant growth in China. Up to 1,700 churches have been demolished or had their crosses removed in Zhejiang in the past two years.
On April 14, a pastor's wife was killed in Henan province after stepping in front of a bulldozer to protest her church's demolition.
Wenzhou is dubbed the "Jerusalem of the East" for reportedly having the largest Christian community in China.