03/11/2006, 00.00
CHINA

Wave of arrests of Protestant Christians

Police raided a bible study meeting in Henan, arresting three pastors "devoted to an evil, illegal cult". Su Wenxing, a Christian musician of international fame, has been placed under house arrest.

Beijing (AsiaNews/CAA) – Chinese police have arrested three leaders of an official Protestant church in Henan for being "devotees of an evil, illegal cult". One of them, Pastor Liu Tuanjie, was released shortly after his arrest because his family paid a fine of 3,000 yuan (around 300 euros).

News of the arrests was disseminated by China Aid Association (CAA), a US-based, non-governmental organisation which lobbies for freedom of worship in China.

The Henan raid took place last Monday: police surrounded a Protestant Church in a village in Xiangchen county while a bible study meeting was under way. Around 50 people were in the building at the time.
According to the Association, the police also put Su Wenxing – a Christian musician renowned abroad for his repertoire of sacred music – under house arrest in Beijing, and arrested other Protestant leaders in Xinjiang and Shanxi.

Last month, a campaign targeted the unofficial church of Xinjiang, leading to the arrest of dozens of Christian leaders. On Monday, two more people were arrested in Shanxi.

Beijing allows the practice of Protestant Christianity only within the Movement of the Three Autonomies (MTA), born in 1950 after Mao seized power and the expulsion of foreign missionaries and church leaders, including Chinese ones.

Official statistics reveal that there are 10 million official Protestants in China, all belonging to the MTA. Unofficial Protestants, who meet in unregistered "home churches", are estimated to reach more than 50 million.

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