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BosNewsLife – An influential house church leader who was reportedly kidnapped along with his son by Chinese security forces was released Monday, November 21, just hours after American President George W. Bush left China , a religious rights group said. US-based China Aid Association, which has close contacts with Christians in China , told BosNewsLife that Zhang Mingxuan and his son were released at 9:30 am local time.

On Friday, November 18, “they were put into a car and driven from Beijing by several security agents” to Henan province where they “were detained and closely monitored in a government guest hotel of Sheqi County [in Henan province] until President Bush left China,” CAA said.

“Neither of them was treated brutally [but] Pastor Zhang’s cell phone wasn’t returned until he was released.” Pastor Zhang reportedly refused to take any food offered by the government and was said to be “in good spirit.”

“I have been sharing the Good News [of Jesus Christ] to all of the officials who were watching me at the same hotel room,” CAA quoted the pastor as saying in a statement it received.

CAA said it also learned that eight other house church leaders in Henan province were released Saturday, November 19, but warned that “none of the confiscated church properties were returned.”

Chinese authorities had no comment, but China ‘s government has denied human rights abuses in the past, saying it only is prosecuting dangerous sects and those violating laws.

Among the eight released were pastor Huang Hailiang, 40, and pastor Wei Lin, who is in his 20’s and who “were tortured with their legs wounded by interrogators on November 3,” CAA claimed.

The released church leaders “feel very happy and honored because they are the blessed who are persecuted for the righteousness,” CAA quoted a church official as saying on condition of anonymity.

It was unclear whether pressure from President Bush had played a role in the decision to release the recently detained Christians. However Bush, who attended a Protestant church service in Beijing , told reporters he had discussed religious freedom during his two-day visit to China .

“It is important that social, political and religious freedoms grow in China ,” the president said Sunday, November 20, standing at Chinese President Hu Jintao’s side.

Bush claimed that demanding religious freedom was a good way to ensure that other freedoms follow. “They go hand in hand. A society which recognizes religious freedom is a society which will recognize political freedom as well,” he explained. “President Hu is a thoughtful fellow, and he listened to what I had to say.”

Most of China ‘s estimated 80-million Christians worship in underground ‘house churches’, which have no permission to gather openly in church buildings. About 17-million Christians are believed to worship in the state-run churches.