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5/11/2011 China (JakartaPost) – Chinese police are holding a South Korean Bible instructor and his wife following a raid on an underground Protestant church, a group said Wednesday, as the government pressures Christians worshipping outside the Communist-controlled church.

The instructor, whose Chinese name was given as Jin Yongzhe, was detained Tuesday along with dozens of other Christians during a police assault on a three-floor church building in the central province of Henan’s Weishi county, the US-based China Aid Association said.

The church building was thoroughly searched and thousands of dollars worth of property seized during the raid, which the association said targeted a religious education seminar being held there.

By Wednesday, 49 Chinese citizens and two South Koreans had been released, the group said. It wasn’t clear what citizenship the pastor’s wife holds and South Korea’s Foreign Ministry said it had no information to release on the matter. South Korean church groups have long maintained close ties with Chinese believers, often operating clandestinely because of Chinese laws against proselytizing.

Earlier in the day, an official with the Weishi county religious affairs bureau confirmed the detentions but gave no details. Like many Chinese officials, he gave only his surname, Sun. Later calls to the bureau to confirm the releases rang unanswered.

China requires all religious groups to register and accept Communist Party oversight, although millions of believers continue to worship in unregistered congregations that typically have a strongly evangelistic character.

One such congregation, Beijing’s unregistered Shouwang Church, has repeatedly defied police demands and attempted to gather for banned outdoor services, leading dozens to be detained. The group, which includes numerous intellectuals, was evicted from its rented space under police pressure.

Rural congregations, drawn from poorer, less-educated communities, tend to be even more vulnerable to coercion from authorities.

China’s policies toward religion have drawn widespread criticism abroad, and a US commission this month listed China as one of the worst violators of religious freedoms, citing the detention of believers and clergy, bans on religious gatherings, and controls over the distribution of religious literature.

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