By BosNewsLife News Center
BEIJING, CHINA (BosNewsLife) -- A senior house church leader was free Saturday, March 17, after being released following ten days administrative detention, but the 77-year old mother of a Christian activist remained behind bars, representatives said.
Pastor Dong Quanyu was set free from the Wancheng Detention Center in Nanyang city of Henan province late Friday, March 16, said China Aid Association (CAA), a Christian advocacy group with close ties to China's growing house church movement.
He was detained with 33 other house church leaders and three pastors from South Korea while they were having a Bible study on March 6, Christians said.
Amid international pressure local police released the 36 house church officials March 7, but Pastor Dong was sentenced to 10 days administrative detention on charges of organizing an "illegal gathering".
HOUSE CHURCH ALLIANCE
Dong is the vice-President of the Chinese House Church Alliance, an umbrella group of 'house churches,' which are organized in most cases in homes of Christian believers.
The pastor said in a statement that he thanked "all of the brothers and sisters from the international community," who played a role in his release.
CAA quoted released pastors as saying their "interrogators received phone calls from all over the world" after the group made a statement, which was picked up by media including BosNewsLife News Agency and its affiliates.
Despite the pressure however, the Beijing house church activist Hua Huiqi's 77-year-old mother, Shuang Shuying, remained behind bars Saturday, March 18, in a seperate case, after filing a formal appeal against her two-year prison sentence.
TWO YEARS SENTENCE
She was sentenced to two years by Beijing Chongwen District People's Court on February 26 on charges of "willfully damaging public and private property." Shuang was also accused of using her cane to destroy the hood of a police car and electronic equipment.
However CAA said the destruction happened as a "police car tried to run over her and she used her cane to protect herself." The incident allegedly happened February 7, when Shuang went to the Chongwen District government building seeking the whereabouts of her arrested son, pastor Hua Huiqi.
"She was then forcefully put into a reception room by a group of [Public Security Bureau] officers. During the struggle, her cane hit the police car and its [electronic] touch-screen," CAA claimed.
It said that "without allowing anytime to cross-examine any of the evidence the prosecutors brought against Ms. Shuang," the court "rushed to a verdict on the first work day after the Chinese New Year holiday."
OLYMPIC GAMES "TROUBLEMAKERS"
CAA said by arresting Pastor Hua and detaining his mother for two years until then end of the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics, the Beijing authority "wants to clean up" what it considers "trouble makers".
Both pastor Hua and his mother have been very active in defending "persecuted Christians and other socially oppressed groups in China," CAA said. "We are shocked by the injustice done to this elder Christian lady" said Bob Fu, a former coworker of Hua. "It definitely represents a new low on the so-called rule of law in China especially in the host city of 2008 Summer Olympics."
In an appeal paper written on behalf of Shuang Shuying, the defense team said it does not accept the criminal verdict of "intentional destruction of property" issued by Chongwen District People's Court of Beijing Municipality.
"The verdict by the first court is not based on facts and legal grounds and therefore the conviction is wrong and the penalty is inappropriate. Therefore, the petitioner requests that the court of appeal repeal the verdict by the court of first trial and rule the petitioner not guilty, handling the case with humanitarian concerns."
Human rights observers have linked the incidents against several house groups in China to concerns about the spread of Christianity in the country within China's Communist leadership.
Chinese officials reportedly admitted recently there may be as many as 130-million Christians in China, most of whom gather in unregistered house churches as they refuse to worship within government-backed denominations.
The incidents have raised questions about China's Prime Minister Wen Jiabao's pledge that China was "on the road to democracy." Wen on Friday, March 17, hastened to add however that it would not "necessarily be Western style democracy" that he envisages for his country of over one billion people.
He cautioned it was needed to fight "splittists," who favor independence for Taiwan and Tibet, but also said that democracy, human rights and the rule of law are not exclusive to Western countries.
He told reporters that China wanted to encourage more creative people who think independently and it wants a country built on the rule of law. Although China lacks experience in democracy, it is willing to learn from advanced countries, and it aims for greater citizen participation, he told media during a rare press conference.
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