03/22/2011, 00.00
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Yangdang: 180 police agents beat and arrest a group of official Christians

Led by the chief of the local Religious Affairs Bureau, agents (some in plainclothes) burst into a Christian legal centre where they beat and detained those present. At the time of their arrest, members were studying the law and regulations that limit religious freedom in China. The raid was carried out without any legal justification.

Beijing (AsiaNews) – Police in Yangdang, Hubei province, raided a Christian legal centre, causing havoc for members who were studying the regulations of the Religious Affairs Bureau. A group of 180 police agents, led by the chiefs of the local police and Religious Affairs Bureau, stormed the site. They used tear gas, beat up those present, including two women, one elderly, and smashed the centre’s equipment. China Aid, an organisation that monitors religious freedom in China, made public the incident, which occurred on 23 February.

Christians in Yangdang, Zaoyang Municipality, issued a statement slamming the attack. In it, they said, “We are a group of kind-hearted Christians from Yangdang Town (hometown of aerospace hero Nie Haisheng), Zaoyang City, Hubei Province, and we are legal and law-abiding citizens of the People’s Republic of China.”

“In our ordinary life, we sincerely abide by the laws and regulations of the state. We conduct ourselves with the teachings from the Bible and live by observing the rules.”

For this reason, “we did not expect that at about 6 p.m. on February 23, 2011, we would personally see and experience the law enforcement officers of the state—the so-called people’s police—arrest, beat and severely punish ordinary people. Even now, fear still lingers in us.”

They noted that over 20 of their friends and relatives were studying the relevant documents concerning the “Regulations on Religions Affairs” promulgated by the State Council, when “suddenly in burst Fu Dewu, head of Xiangyang Municipal Bureau for Ethnic and Religious Affairs and Li Guiming, director of Zaoyang Municipal Bureau of Religion, leading over 100 riot police officers and over 80 plainclothes ‘hired roughnecks’ with towels on their wrists as an identification mark headed by Chai Pujun, director of Zaoyang Municipal Public Security Bureau”. They “smashed the door open and broke into the house of our brother without presenting any legal documents or going through any legally required procedures.”

The agents fired tear gas at the unarmed Christians, beating up a number of them, including two women, one of whom was elderly.

Despite the pleas, no one was “taken to hospital to have their injuries treated.” A number of Christians were handcuffed by force, and beaten. The officials then proceeded to destroy the equipment, including video recorders taping the incident.

China does not allow religious activity outside of state-controlled organisations. The Yangdang incident illustrates how anti-Christian repression is increasing, even when Christians respect the law.

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