04/08/2009, 00.00
CHINA
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Protestant clergyman arrested again in Beijing

Rev “Bike” Zhang Mingxuan, head of an underground Church of some 250,000 members, is arrested. Shi Weihan is also jailed for giving out Bibles. More than 50 million people belong to House Churches, which the government wants to incorporate in official party-controlled agencies.
Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Christian House Churches continue to be persecuted in China. At dawn on 21 March Rev “Bike” Zhang Mingxuan, head of the more than 250,000-member Chinese House Church Alliance, was taken into custody.

Zhang, who was eventually released, spoke to the China Aid Association about his arrest, which occurred in Yanjiao (Hebei), where he had stopped overnight after celebrating a baptism.

“At 6 am on March 21, more than a dozen policemen and local leaders arrived from Yongle town, Tongzhou district. [. . .] They arrested and interrogated me, and confiscated my three cellphones and bank cards. They harshly interrogated me, and forced me to [follow them to] their office in Yongle town. [. . .] They searched me all over my body. They abused me and threatened to kill me.”

He was eventually taken to the city of Nanyang (Henan), arriving at dawn the next day, and released later that afternoon. He was handed back his possessions, except for 150,000 from one of his bank accounts.

For years Zhang has been harassed and threatened by police. Because he is an influential leader in the House Church movement, the authorities want to isolate him from his wider community.

In fact he was arrested several times during the Olympics and shipped out of Beijing, he said.

He is also upset at the authorities because they had promised him that he and his family would be allowed back in the capital once the Beijing Games were over. So far this has not happened.

On 19 March another underground Protestant was arrested. Shi Weihan (pictured) was taken by police in Beijing for printing Christian literature and Bibles and giving them out without a government permit.

In his defence Mr Shi said that he gave away the Bibles; therefore, he could be charged with “illegal business practices.”

In the written confession police extracted from him he said that reading the Bible can make people better citizens.

In mainland China underground Protestant communities have more than 50 million members. Since 2007 a campaign has been underway to either eliminate them or force them into the Three Autonomies Movement, a government-sponsored organisation that is officially in charge of China’s Protestants.

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