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(Associated Press) – China has detained a prominent minister of an unofficial Protestant church in a crackdown on Christian groups that defy Communist Party control, a U.S.-based group said Friday. Pastor Zhang Rongliang was taken away Dec. 1 from an apartment in a village near the central city of Zhengzhou , the China Aid Association said in an e-mailed news release. The communist government allows worship only in state-supervised churches, which claim about 11 million members. Worshippers and clergy in unofficial churches are regularly harassed and detained.
Activists say unregistered “house churches” such as Zhang’s have as many as 100 million members nationwide.
Zhang, 53, has spent a total of nearly 12 years in prison and labor camps since the 1970s, said the group. Later on the day of Zhang’s detention, police conducted house-to-house searches of the village, apparently looking for his wife and children, who were not home when he was detained, the China Aid Association said. It said they are now in hiding.