Over 100 Church Leaders Arrested in China While Attending Retreat

( [email protected] ) Jul 21, 2004 08:01 PM EDT

More than 100 house church leaders have been arrested in the Xinjiang Autonomous Region of Western China.  According to sources, the group was meeting for a retreat when they were surrounded by more than 200 military police, Public Security Bureau (PSB) and other officers, who arrived at the scene in police and military vehicles.  No arrest warrants or official identification papers were shown by officers as they carried out the raid.

The "co-workers meeting" was being held at the “Retreat Center for Railroad Workers” located in Section 5 of Liu Gong Town, Chang Ji Zhou (district) in Xinjiang to train and encourage Christian workers in the Xinjiang area, China’s western frontier and the home of the mostly-Muslim Uyghur people.  The meeting was sponsored by the Ying Shang Church, a large house-church network headquartered in Anhui Province.

According to the Voice of the Martyrs (VOM), thirty of the leaders are still being held by PSB near the retreat center, while the rest have been transported back to their home areas and are being held by the local PSB in their respective areas.  Several have been confined in the so-called “Transformation and Study Center” where they will be "interrogated and pressured to renounce their faith.  If they don’t, they will be formally charged and tried," reported VOM.

VOM sources say those who were from other provinces were treated differently after the arrest.  In China it is illegal to cross a provincial border to hold religious meetings without approval from the Religious Affairs Bureau and the state-sponsored Three Self Patriotic Movement (TSPM) church.  Police have already contacted the local home village of those from outside Xinjiang, seeking additional information about their religious activities.

Among those confirmed to have been arrested are Wang Yu Lian, a leader in the Ying Shang Church for more than 20 years.  He is being held near the camp in Xinjiang.

Also arrested was Jin Da, the 34-year-old General Secretary of the TSPM of Ningbo City, Zhejiang Province.  Jin has 46 TSPM churches under his leadership, but reportedly is supportive of unregistered house churches as well.

“This is yet another example of the Chinese government’s harassment and persecution of unregistered church groups,” said Todd Nettleton, Director of News Services at The Voice of the Martyrs.  “We encourage Christians around the world to pray for these brothers and sisters, and to call the Chinese embassy on their behalf.”

Also last week in China, 40 house church leaders were arrested while attending a training seminar in Cheng Du City, Sichuan Province.  Also arrested was a Taiwanese couple, who were leading the seminar.

All 40 have been released, but the whereabouts of the Taiwanese couple is unknown.  VOM sources say it is likely they will be deported and blacklisted by the Chinese government.

“China wants us to think their people have freedom to practice religion,” said Nettleton.  “These cases and the hundreds like them show that to be a complete farce.”