03/02/2006, 00.00
CHINA
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Police clear Anhui bible school by force and arrest 36

The operation is part of a national campaign aiming to forcefully eradicate unofficial Catholic and Protestant churches.

Huaibei (AsiaNews/CAA) – Chinese police yesterday forcibly cleared out a bible school run by an unfficial Protestant church in Huaibei, in the eastern province of Anhui, arresting 36 people who were there at the time. This was reported by the China Aid Association (CAA), a non-governmental organisation based in the United States that works for freedom of worship in China.

More than 50 officers, armed with electric cattle prods, entered the school, which had been surrounded by 10 vehicles. They took away all those they found in the building: students, teachers and community leaders.

Chu Huaiting, the owner of the school, was arrested later in his home. According to the CAA, Chu is the vice-president of the Chinese House Church Alliance, which groups about 300,000 worshippers in unofficial congregations.

The school is also used to teach sewing to students: other than religious texts, the police confiscated all the blankets in the building. A female officer who answered the phone at the local police department did not confirm the arrests had taken place. She refused to give her name.

The operation is part of a national campaign aiming to forcefully eradicate unofficial churches. Beijing allows the practice of Protestant Christianity only within the Movement of the Three Autonomies (MTA), born in 1950 after Mao seized power and the expulsion of foreign missionaries as well as Chinese church leaders.

In the name of nationalism, the MTA wants to boost the growth of national churches, which are separate and subject to the Communist Party. According to official statistics, there are 10 million official Protestants in China, all part of the MTA. Unofficial Protestants, who meet in unregistered "domestic churches", are estimated to be around 50 million.

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