02/01/2016, 11.54
CHINA
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Zhejiang, Protestant pastor arrested: he opposed demolition of crosses

by John Ai

The Protestant minister Gu Yuese (official) is the head of Chongyi, the largest Protestant community in the country with about 10 thousand faithful. He was arrested by police on charges of "embezzlement". He had publically opposed the demolition of crosses in Zhejiang and defended the rights of the church. His arrest could kick off a new wave of persecution against Christians.

Hangzhou (AsiaNews) - Chinese state media have confirmed the arrest of official Protestant Pastor Yuese Gu, also known as Joseph Gu. The pastor leads the Chongyi Church, which is the largest Protestant community in the country with about 10 thousand faithful. He was arrested by police on charges of "embezzlement", but no further details were given about his case. In an open letter sent to his congregation, he speaks of "a cold storm that is heading for Hangzhou", the provincial capital.

Gu was removed from office on Jan. 18, 2016.  On the 27 of the same month he disappeared with his wife Zhou Lianmei. Two days later, church officials announced that the man was “working with the police" over allegations of misappropriation of community funds. The Chongyi then received a formal police notification that read: the pastor is being held "under the house arrest in a chosen location".

The term is a euphemism increasingly used by the Chinese authorities to indicate de facto illegal detention. Under national law, a citizen who is legally detained - even while waiting to appear before the court - has a number of rights: to communicate with their family, to meet with their lawyer and dispute the charge against them. If the suspect "is cooperating with the authorities" and is under "house arrest", these rights do not apply.

Beijing has reserved the same treatment for the five publishers who, critical of the authorities, "disappeared" from Hong Kong.

The sudden dismissal of Gu – which took place without following mandatory procedures - has shocked the congregation. In an open letter to the faithful, and his wife Gu warns: "A rare freezing, cold will befall Hangzhou... Chongyi Church is also experiencing unprecedented, chilling trails”.

Gu opposed authorities' campaign of the demolition of the crosses publicly during these two years. In May, 2015, Chongyi Church posted a statement against the new regulation for religious building and demolition of crosses on its website. The website was temporarily offline later. In later July, Gu signed an open letter to Zhejiang religion bureau on behalf of the patriotic church.

Over 1800 crosses on the churches have been removed since the campaign began in 2014.  Huang Ziyi, the pastor who resisted demolishing cross was sentenced to one year in jail for "provoking social unrest". Lawyer Zhang Kai who defended for church was detained by police secretly in last August.  Gu Yuese, the latest to fall, is the most important member of the so-called patriotic church to be imprisoned since the Cultural Revoltion.

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