07/26/2011, 00.00
CHINA
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Forced labour for Christian Pastor Shi for praying with the faithful

Enhao Shi was arrested weeks ago for practicing his faith even against the prohibitions of the law. He was sentenced without trial or defence. China has in place a harsh crackdown on all "unofficial" Christians, who refuse to sign up to State church.
Beijing (AsiaNews / Agencies) - The Pastor Enhao Shi, Vice President of Chinese House Church Alliance (CHCA), was sentenced in the city of Suqian (Jiangsu) to 2 years of re-education-through-labour (Laogai), in short forced labour. For months, China has been implementing a strict crackdown against house churches, arresting anyone who even stops to pray.

Shi was arrested and detained by police 31marzo for 12 days (see AsiaNews, 6.6.2001, Arrest of Shouwang Christians and other believers relentless). He was arrested again June 21 as "suspected of using superstition to undermine law enforcement," which is a serious crime in China. Instead, the sentence at the Laogai was imposed administratively, without trial and without the assistance of a lawyer.

The CHCA is a major "house churche" in China, with several thousand followers. In recent months, public safety has ordered the group to suspend all kinds of meetings and confiscated vehicles, musical equipment and about 140 thousand Yuan, almost 16 thousand Euros, the proceeds of donations. The police also threatened Shi’s three daughters and their husbands.

For months, the authorities have been persecuting these groups, preventing them even from meeting to pray. In April the authorities in Beijing drove the Church of Shouwang from their place they met to pray. The faithful began to gather to pray in a public square, giving notice on their internet site. Police would intervene each Sunday to arrest anyone who came and bring them to the police station for hours, later releasing them. On some Sundays hundreds of faithful were put under house arrest. Months later Shouwang faithful are still under house arrest and forbidden to gather.

In China there are more unofficial Protestant Christians (80 million) than members of the Three-Self Movement (20 million). Lest the situation get out of the Party’s control, for almost four years now a campaign to eliminate the underground communities or merge them into the official community has been underway.
The series of arrests of Protestant Christians coincides with a series of arrests of democracy activists and human rights lawyers. Beijing fears that any movement not controlled by the Party could trigger a "jasmine revolution" similar to the one that is rocking the North Africa and the Middle East. This fear is caused by the fact that many human rights activists have converted to Christianity

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