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China arrests nearly 200 Christians
Baptist Press
April 12, 2011
4 MIN READ TIME

China arrests nearly 200 Christians

China arrests nearly 200 Christians
Baptist Press
April 12, 2011

BEIJING — China’s abuse of religious freedom, which often

takes place behind the scenes, was on display for the entire world April 10

when approximately 200 members of an unregistered Protestant church were

arrested and placed on a bus during broad daylight in Beijing, the nation’s

capital.

It was one of the largest crackdowns on an unregistered church in years, with

upwards of 1,000 police involved.

The scene, recorded on a BBC video and reported by newspapers such as The New

York Times and The Toronto Star, took place as members of Shouwang Church

attempted to meet in an outdoor public plaza. The congregation had lost its

indoor facility and had used the Internet to advertise the outdoor church

meeting.

At least 169 church members were arrested, ChinaAid reported, and most of them

had been freed by the next day, although the pastor and his wife and another

woman were still in police custody. But that does not mean the other church

members are free to worship again. ChinaAid, which monitors human rights abuses

in the country, said surveillance vehicles “remained outside the apartment

buildings of many Shouwang members” and that “their freedom of movement” likely

“will remain restricted for some time to come.”

For a church to be legal in China, it must register with the government.

Churches not registered can face restrictions on growth and evangelism. The

underground church movement is far larger than the registered church

membership.

The Shouwang Church members were scheduled to gather at 8:30 a.m. Sunday, but

some were seized as they left their homes and others arrested when they arrived

off the subway at the plaza, located in the Zhongguangcun commercial area of

Beijing. Police had surrounded the plaza. Most members were put on buses and

taken to an elementary school, while others were taken to a police station. The

Christians “sang hymns and worshipped” while in detention, ChinaAid reported.

“Police interrogated the detainees, took down their names and other personal

details, fingerprinted them and ordered some to write statements of repentance

and personal guarantees,” ChinaAid said. “Many refused and were not released

until well after midnight.”

Undeterred, the members who eluded arrest gathered in smaller groups at other

locations and — with the worship order sheet in hand — proceeded to hold

smaller-scale services. One group met at a Kentucky Fried Chicken, where police

found the members and broke up the service, ChinaAid said.

“A tweet from a church member described the police as behaving ‘like wolves and

tigers,’” ChinaAid said.

The government took the church’s website down and apparently also shut down

cell phone coverage in the area hoping to “keep news of the crackdown from

getting out,” ChinaAid reported.

Some of the church’s leaders were put under house arrest beginning the Saturday

night before the meeting.

The church’s pastor, Jin Tianming, had warned the congregation the previous

week that they might face resistance at the public meeting, The New York Times

reported. “At this time, the challenges we face are massive,” he said in his

sermon at the time. “For everything that we have faced, we offer our thanks to

God. Compared with what You faced on the cross, what we face now is truly

insignificant.”

It isn’t the government’s first confrontation with the church, The Times said.

In 2008, China forced the church out of a rented facility. The church then paid

for a floor in an office building but the building’s owner — “under pressure

from the authorities” — never gave the church the keys, The Times reported. The

church “had been meeting in a restaurant.”

In the days leading up to the meeting, the government apparently tried to

pressure members not to attend the meeting.

“Shouwang church members were called in for talks by various authorities,

including the local police, work supervisors, school leaders and neighborhood

committees, who warned them not to participate in the outdoor meeting on

Sunday,” ChinaAid said.

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Compiled by Michael Foust, associate editor of Baptist Press.

Watch the video of the arrest on BBC’s China affiliate.)

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