06/13/2005, 00.00
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Police detain 100 Protestant leaders in raid against house churches in Jilin province

Hong Kong (AsiaNews/Caa) – In a major crackdown against house churches in Jilin province, police arrested more than 600 people. About 100 are still in jail. According to China Aid Association, an organization supporting persecuted Christians, late in May police and Public Security Bureau (PSB) officers simultaneously raided about 100 house churches in Changchun area, the capital city of Jilin Province in northeastern China. Almost 600 house church believers and leaders were taken into custody. Most were released after 24 to 48 hours of interrogation, but about 100 of the leaders including professors from Changchun University are still held in different detention centers.

Zhao Dianru, 58, an important church leader, was taken away on May 22 and detained at Jiutai City Detention center of Jilin Province until June 6 when he was released.

According to reliable sources, Zhao's arrest document accused him of "using other means to instigate and disturb social stability," but did not mention religion or church activities. About 20 boxes of Christian books were confiscated during the police raid in his house. Zhao has been overseeing about 18 house churches in his area and was asked to join the government sanctioned church three times recently but he declined.

Sources report that university students, professors and other young intellectuals make up a large portion of the raided house church groups. It's believed this is a coordinated campaign to eliminate the house church influence in the university areas.

China's new law on religion, the Provisions on Religious Affairs, took effect March 1.  Some had believed the new law would lead to less restriction on unregistered churches, but these large-scale raids and arrests seem to show otherwise.

The raided house churches are not all part of the same group, and are not affiliated with any of China's major house church networks. They are independent house churches with thousands of believers who choose not to register their Christian activities with the Communist government.

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