By BosNewsLife News Center
BEIJING, CHINA (BosNewsLife) -- At least 150 house church pastors were believed to be behind bars Tuesday, December 11, after Chinese security forces broke up a Christian meeting in China's Shandong Province, fellow believers said.
Advocacy group China Aid Association (CAA) told BosNewsLife that initially 270 were detained December 7 in Hedeng District of Linyi City where they had gathered for a Bible study gathering. Chinese officials have reportedly said that the meeting was an â€œillegal religious gathering," held without official permission.
House churches are organized in homes or other accommodations of believers, outside the 'official' churches backed by the Chinese Communist Party. In a statement released by CAA, an eyewitness identified only as Pastor Li said up to 50 policemen from 12 different towns were involved in the massive detentions.
The pastors were allegedly handcuffed "two-by-two and taken to the local police station for questioning," CAA said. Since Monday, December 10, "150 pastors remain in custody,â€ the group said, adding that other church leaders were released after paying a fine of about $40, described as an "interrogation fee".
CAA said that the â€œhumiliation these pastors received by being led away in handcuffs as common criminals, for attending a Bible study is an unjustifiable act of religious
It added that the â€œlarge scale and high profile of the detentions shows the apathy of Chinese officials in moving towards a policy for toleration of religious freedom,â€ ahead of the upcoming Beijing Olympic Games in 2008.
Chinese officials have not released any statements yet, but several church groups and advocacy groups have noted a â€œmajor crackdownâ€ on house churches and other Christian workers amid apparent concerns within the Chinese government about the spread of Christianity in the country.
There may be as many as 130 million Christians in China, according to some official estimates, about 10 percent of the population. The United States Central Intelligence Agency says up to four percent of the population has been identified as Christian.
CAA said concerned Christians could address their concerns to the Chinese Embassy in Washington DC via Ambassador, Mr. Zhou Wenzhong, 2300 Connecticut Avenue, N. W. Washington D.C. 20008, USA. Or Email: email@example.com.
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