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BosNewsLife – China has closed down the furniture factory of a prominent Christian businessman after he threatened to sue police for allegedly torturing him because of his ties with a house church, religious rights watchers confirmed Monday, October 17. US-based Christian Aid Association (CAA), a religious rights group which closely monitored the case, told BosNewsLife that 45-year old Tong Qimiao was forced to shut down his business in Xinjiang province last week.

“His furniture factory and store in a local mall” in the town of Kashgar “was ordered to close its operations and lots of pieces of furniture were confiscated on October 13 and October 14…by the local authority,” CAA claimed. No details were available as to how many people would lose their jobs.

The organization said three well-known Chinese legal scholars and human rights lawyers, Xu Zhiyong, Fan Yafeng and Teng Biao, will support Tong in his attempts to regain control over his business.

Chinese officials have not reacted to the allegations. However the Chinese government consistently denied human rights abuses, saying authorities only crackdown on “dangerous sects” and those violating China ‘s laws.

CAA quoted a “reliable source” as saying that the decision to close Tong’s business was “in revenge” for his attempts to sue police forces who allegedly tortured him during an interrogation on September 28. Several days later Tong was prematurely released from a hospital where he was treated for a broken chest, because he refused to sign a “false affidavit” denying the torture took place, CAA investigators said.

“Mr. Tong was beaten severely with his chest bone broken by an agent from Xinjiang State Security Bureau on September 28, 2005. He was interrogated for his relationship with a house church in that area,” CAA added.

The controversy is the latest in a series of reported attempts by authorities to crackdown on the growing number of unofficial house churches across the Communist nation. Pastors and individual believers have been detained in several areas of China , according to several sources.

Human rights watchers claim there are at least up to 80-million Christians in China , most of whom attend worship services outside the state-approved denominations.

“Barely 17 million worship in the two officially organized churches of China — the Protestant Three Self Patriotic Movement [with] 12 million members and the Catholic Patriotic Association [with] 5 million members,” said Christian rights group Open Doors in a recent position statement on China .

“…We reject the right of the government appointed church leaders to speak on behalf of the entire Chinese Christian community, and we are not surprised when they deny the existence of the house church millions,” the group added.