02/16/2024, 16.29
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Hong Kong Christian jailed in Hubei for the past two months

Stephen Chen Yueli was arrested as he entered mainland China on charges of "illegal business operations" for his involvement in printing children’s Sunday school materials. According to China Aid, he is in solitary confinement and cannot even see his lawyers. With him, eight other Christians were also arrested.

Hong Kong (AsiaNews/Agencies) – An Evangelical Christian from Hong Kong, Stephen Chen Yueli, has been detained in China for almost two months on charges of "illegal business operations" in connection with his involvement in the printing of children’s Sunday school materials for a Christian community in Hubei.

According to the international NGO China Aid, eight other Christians were also arrested with him, but their names are unknown.

Police took Chen Yueli into custody on 19 December 2023, as he entered China at the Shenzhen-West Kowloon customs railway post. After his formal arrest, he has been held at a detention centre in Chibi City, Hubei province.

His lawyer has been unable to meet him despite numerous attempts. His family is very worried about his health condition.

For more than 20 years, Chen Yueli has been shuttling between Hong Kong and China to serve Christian communities in the mainland.

When he was arrested, he was on his way to Yunnan to visit his wife, who was the victim of telecommunications fraud.

The Chibi City Public Security Bureau has consistently obstructed regular lawyer visits, citing the involvement of "national security agents" as a reason for rejecting visitation requests.

No further information is available about the other Christians arrested with Chen Yueli, nor of the consequences of the incident for the local church in Xianning, where Chen Yueli served for a long time.

Accusations of "fraud" or "illegal business activities" are often used by the authorities of the People's Republic of China to target so-called house churches, i.e. Evangelical Christian communities that do not recognise themselves in the Three-Self Patriotic Movement.

The latter is a government entity akin to the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association through which the Communist Party of China exercises control over the activities of the country’s Protestant communities.

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