01/19/2011, 00.00
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Christian clergymen arrested to stop him from attending conference in Hong Kong

Wang Yi, a well-know house church leader, was detained at Chengdu airport as he was boarding a plane bound for Hong Kong, where he was scheduled to speak at an Evangelical conference. Tens of millions of Christians practice their faith underground to avoid state-sponsored persecution.

Hong Kong (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Chinese authorities have prevented Wang Yi, a well-known underground Christian leader, from boarding a plane in Chengdu (Sichuan) on his way to Hong Kong, where he was scheduled to attend an evangelical conference.

Wang, a house church organiser and human rights campaigner, told Radio Free Asia that yesterday he and three other church members were stopped. “As soon as we arrived at the Shuangliu Airport around 6 am [. . .], plainclothes police officers stopped us, taking us to the nearby [police] station on Jiangxi Street,” Wang said.

Whilst Wang was held, the other three Church members were shortly released and left for Hong Kong.

After several hours, Wang was also let go. He travelled directly to the airport, but was detained again by police and taken back to the police station.

Rev Wang and his fellow churchmen were planning to attend a training conference in Hong Kong for evangelical development and organisation.

“Police said to me, ‘You cannot go to Hong Kong.’ But I said they didn’t have any reason to block me from travelling, so ‘If you release me I will definitely [try to] go to Hong Kong again because the conference will last until Saturday’,” he said by mobile phone.

His companions confirmed Wang’s version of events, but Chengdu police denied the Christian leader was arrested. They failed however to explain why he was held in the first place.

China wants all believers to practice their faith within the state-sponsored religious organisations under the control of the Communist Party.

Officially, 23 million Chinese belong to Protestant Churches, but many experts estimate the real number to be 100 million and more. The difference is due to many believers’ refusal to register with the official state Christian organisation. Instead, Protestants are organised into “house churches”, small groups that pray together in private homes.

Despite the constant persecution, the number of Christians is growing rapidly.

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