12/17/2003, 00.00
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Online church activist arrested

Shanghai (AsiaNews/AP) -  A man was arrested accused of posting articles online in support of the unofficial Christian Church in China. His arrest is part of a widening police crackdown on unregistered religious activities, a US-based monitoring group said.

Zhang Shengqi, a computer technician, was detained last month when his fiancee's home was raided in the northeastern city of Jilin. He was charged with releasing state secrets, the China Aid Association said.

Zhang was later transferred to the Hangzhou jail, where authorities earlier arrested two other activists for the same reason, the association said.

The Associated Press reported that a woman at the city's police bureau, Liu, said she "had never heard of this case", while a man at the provincial jail said he was "unclear" about the matter.

Zhang's arrest appears related to police suspicions that he helped church historian, Liu Fenggang, publish information on the the internet concerning the Hangzhou crackdown. Fengggang is a veteran pro-democracy campaigner, who has also been arrested in Hangzhou on similar charges.

Earlier this year, city authorities demolished several unregistered churches and arrested religious leaders in what activists said was a "trial run" for techniques to be used against unregistered religious groups elsewhere in the country.

Bob Fu, president of Pennsylvania-based China Aid, said authorities tried to keep news about the crackdown quiet. But church activists in other parts soon spread word about it and several traveled to Hangzhou to investigate the matter.

Police have since classified information about the crackdown as a "state secret", a term applied loosely on the mainland.

"They seem to think there is some big conspiracy afoot. They were even questioning Zhang and his fiancee about supposed foreign bank accounts," Mr. Fu said. (MS)


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