Xishan (AsiaNews) – Police in the southern province of Yunnan have violently beaten up a group of Protestants from an underground Church as they filed a claim for damages after police seized and later burnt hundreds of their Bibles and other religious objects during a raid on their house church. A woman, 54-year-old Liang Guihua who was thrown against a wall, was rendered unconscious and is now recovering in serious conditions, this according to the China Aid Association (CAA), a NGO involved in the struggle for religious freedom in China. The violent episode occurred on the morning of 23 January in an office of Xishan District’s Public Security Bureau. In the afternoon a member of the Protestant group went bank to the same office where the official on duty claimed that he had not seen anything.
The premise of the event goes back to 5 December 2007 when police officers and officials from the Religious Affairs Bureau raided a house church in Kunming arresting all those present.
In searching the building the agents fund hundreds of religious books (including several Bibles) and burnt them.
Police also burnt the identity papers of three underground Christians and forced the landowner of the building where the group met to break the rental agreement he had with them.
However, under Chinese law police must release an official receipt whenever its agents seize anything for later use in trial to determine the quantity and value of individual items of proof. Instead in Kunming police agents did not follow procedures.
Beijing permits the practise of evangelical Christianity only within the Movement of the Three Autonomies (MTA), which was created in 1950 after Mao seized power. As a consequence, foreign missionaries were expelled and Chinese Church leaders were imprisoned. According to official figures there are some 10 million official Protestants in China, all part of the MTA.
In addition there are many ‘underground’ or ‘unauthorised’ Protestants, who gather in unregistered ‘domestic churches.’ Their numbers are estimated to exceed 50 million. Over the past year, the government has arrested 1,958 of clergymen and Church members from underground Protestant Churches.
According to a secret document prepared for the Chinese communist party in Hubei, leaked to the West last November, a campaign is underway to ‘normalise’ the underground Protestant Churches by offering them two options: either join the Movement of the Three Autonomies (the Protestant communities headed by the patriotic associations), or be suppressed.
The campaign is in clear violation of UN guidelines on religious freedom, which ban the distinction between lawful religious activities (i.e. state-controlled) and activities deemed unlawful because they are not controlled by the government.