08/24/2011, 00.00
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Inner Mongolia, 21 Protestant leaders arrested

The pastors, members of unofficial churches, had gathered in Wuhai to decide on the summer activities. After the arrest, 6 were released for health reasons. The government extorts money from the families for their release and break the law by failing to inform of detention.
Wuhai (AsiaNews) - Arrests, forced detentions, threats and extortion: these are the "weapons" with which the Chinese government is carrying out religious persecution in the country. The Chinese government arrested 21 unofficial Protestant Christian leaders on charges of "using a cult organization to undermine national law". Of these, six were released on health grounds: the other 15 are in jail since the end of July. The news was only reported today by ChinaAid Association, a non-governmental organization that monitors the status of religious freedom in the country.

According to local sources, the arrest took place July 26 at 10 am: dozens of police officers disrupted a religious meeting in progress in the city of Wuhai, Inner Mongolia, where some local pastors and others from Shizuishan in the province Ningxia had gathered to plan the summer activities of the respective churches.

The police arrested and seized everything they found not only Bibles, but even the bamboo mats upon which those present were seated. After the raid they were taken to the Wuhai detention centre: Following a medical examination, 6 were released because of their poor health. However, the police, breaking the law, did not communicate the arrests to the families or issue the necessary documents.

In addition, the police began to extort money from the families of the Christian leaders. In fact, after 15 days of detention, the police contacted relatives and asked for 50 thousand Yuan (about 5 thousand euros) to release the prisoners: after collecting the money with great difficulty, the case was instead sent to the Office of Public Safety . Here, a government representative demanded tens of thousands of Yuan from families for the pastors’ release. Otherwise, he threatened sentences to hard labour and more serious criminal charges.

Beijing allows the practice of Protestant Christianity only within the Three-Self Movement (MTA), born in the 50s after Mao seized power and the expulsion of foreign missionaries and the elimination of religious leaders in China. Official statistics say that there are 10 million Protestants in China, all members of the MTA. Unofficial Protestants, who meet in "house churches" and are not registered, are estimated at over 50 million.
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