11/21/2013, 00.00
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Henan, Protestant pastor arrested for defending faithful from authorities

Zhang Shaojie leads the Christian community of Nanle: Communist officials "invited him for an interview" and he has since disappeared. In a raid on his church 20 other Christians were arrested. The pastor's family had to flee from the area. Zhang is a member of the Three-Self Movement , the "official " Protestant Church built by Mao.

Beijing ( AsiaNews) - Police in the central province of Henan arrested the pastor Zhang Shaojie (see photo) , leader of the Church of Nanle County , and more than 20 Christian staff and faithful. The authorities have not stated the reason for detention, but some sources speaking to ChinaAid argue that the pastor has "angered" the authorities for the defense of his faithful against the abuses committed by Communist officials.

Zhang is part of the Three-Self Movement, the "official" Protestant Church built by Mao Zedong in the early years of his government. In China, only registered religious groups are allowed. But there are more unofficial Protestant Christians (about 80 million) than members of the Three-Self Movement (about 20 million). Lest the situation escape Party control, for almost five years there has been a campaign to eliminate the underground communities or merge them into the official ones.

According to local sources, 48 years old Zhang's arrest could also arise from the desire of the authorities to replace him as leader of the Christian in the area. In any case, the faithful accuse the police of having "tricked " the pastor by " inviting him for an interview" on 16 November.  He has since disappeared into thin air. The day after the police surrounded his church and stopped the faithful who wanted to attend the Sunday service. The police have threatened the faithful warning them not to go to the gatherings of the church.

The pastor's daughter, Zhang Huixin , told ChinaAid that the authorities then raided the second community meeting and ordered the church employees to " evacuate the place immediately." The woman, her husband and their 10 month old daughter were forced to flee: at the moment it is not clear where they are.


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