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6/27/07 BEIJING, CHINA (BosNewsLife)– Eight Chinese ‘house church’ leaders from China’s Shaanxi and Shandong provinces remained detained and faced the prospect of serving time in labor camps Wednesday, June 27, after a police crackdown on Bible distribution and worship services, rights watchers and fellow Christians said.


US-based rights group China Aid Association (CAA), which has close contacts with China’s growing house church movement, said security forces initially arrested a dozen church leaders on June 9, while they distributed Bibles at a market place in Jiaocheng county of Shaanxi province. Four of them were released the same day and six others on June 15 from the regional Jiaocheng Detention Center, CAA added.

But two pastors of the group, identified as Zhou Jieming and pastor Niu Wenbin, have remained behind bars on charges of “using an evil cult to obstruct the enforcement of the law,” CAA and local Christians said. Security forces allegedly raided their homes without search warrants on June 10 and June 12 respectively, confiscating Bibles and other Christian literature.

Officers of the Public Security Bureau, one of the country’s main law enforcement institutions, reportedly told family members of the detained pastors that “any religious activities without permission from the government Religious Affairs Bureau is regarded as evil cult activities.”

LABOR CAMP

Officials were not immediately available for comment, but Church leaders fear the two detained pastors could face up to three years “re-education through labor” in a labor camp. Six other house church leaders from Shandong province could face the similar punishment after they were detained on June 15 during a worship service in Zhangba village in Cao county, CAA said.

They were identified as Pastors Zhang Gaiming and Sun Qingwen from Shangqiu county, both 43, nd 50-year-old Zhao Yongsheng and the apparently only woman Peng Yufeng, 42, who are
from the area where the raid took place. Names of the other two detained pastors were not immediately available, but all six were reportedly moved to Cao County Detention center.

“They are threatened to be sent to re-education through labor camp if they refused to pay 10,000 yuan ($1500),” for allegedly violating the law with their Christian activities, CAA said. The group stressed it appealed to Chinese authorities to “unconditionally release these eight innocent house church leaders.”

RIGHTS ABUSES

China has consistently denied human rights abuses, saying it only cracks down on “sects” deemed dangerous for society.

However rights groups have linked the detentions to concerns within the Communist Party leadership about the spread of Christianity in China, which it sees as a threat to its atheistic ideology.

Some Chinese officials have been quoted as saying there may be as many as 150 million Christians in China, far more than previous estimates. Most of them gather in underground ‘house churches,’ named after homes of believers where the worship services take place.