By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent BosNewsLife
BEIJING, CHINA (BosNewsLife) -- A church in China's autonomous region of Xinjiang faced uncertainty Thursday, February 14, after Chinese security forces raided its Sunday School, detaining church leaders and interrogating "terrified" children, investigators said.
Religious rights group China Aid Association (CAA) said officers of the Public Security Bureau (PSB), the country's main law enforcement agency, also threatened to destroy the church in Xinjiang's capital Urumqi.
"Eyewitnesses told [us] that the three church leaders including pastor Zhang Ying, brother Cui and brother Ju Ge were taken away by the PSB while they were leading a Sunday school class for more than 20 children," added CAA, which is in close contact with the church.
China's communist government forbids religious education for children under the age of 18, said CAA. The young students attending the Sunday School were therefore "forced to give out the names of their parents," who were ordered to bring their children home, the group added.
In addition, PSB officers searched the church and confiscated "some private properties," the group claimed, adding that the children were "terrified." It came after elsewhere in China, in Yunan Province, two Christian women, Meng Xiu Lan,- 55, and Zhou Cheng Xiu- 53, were detained and sexually abused by police in Jun Tun County on February 2, CAA added.
Policemen from the Jun Tun police department allegedly detained the women after they were found distributing Christmas cards. "The two women were first threatened and mocked by police before being stripped naked, and frisked violently," CAA said in a statement seen by BosNewsLife. "Police then handcuffed the two women and escorted them back to their homes." After searching their homes, police "illegally confiscated CDs, handouts, Bibles, song books and calendars."
The reported police violence was the latest in a series of government-backed attacks against devoted Christians in China, CAA and other Christian groups said. In one of the first reported incidents this year, state officials in Xinjiang region apparently targeted ethnic Uyghur Christians on January 12, detaining Alimjan Yimit, a former Muslim convert and Christian house church leader.
He reportedly told family members that the arrest was described by police as “national security issue.” Details of charges against Alimjan were not immediately clear, but Christians have said it appears he was detained for his evangelical activities. In September 13 last year officials ordered him to close down his Kashgar-based company, on charges of using it “as a cover to preach Christianity among people of Uyghur ethnicity,” CAA and other sources said.
The arrest followed that of another Uyghur Christian, Osman Imin, on November 19, 2007, for assisting foreigners in alleged "illegal religious activities" and "revealing state secrets," CAA said. Police reportedly also detained and tortured Osman in 2004. CAA and other groups say there has accused the government of launching a coordinated campaign against Uyghur Christians and house churches, ahead of the upcoming Olympic Games in Beijing.
Chinese authorities have expressed concerns that evangelical Christians will use that event to spread Christianity in this Communist nation. They have strongly denied reports of human rights abuses, saying Christians are free to worship within the official, government backed, denominations.
CAA said it expects world leaders, including United States President George W. Bush, will keep use the Olympic Games to voice their concern to Chinese leaders about the apparent deteriorating condition of religious freedom within China.
Bush recently praised Bob Fu, president of CAA, for his involvment in defending religious rights. And, last week February 7, Fu was presented the 2007 John Leland Religious Liberty Award "for courageously defending the right of all people to exercise freely their religious faith" at the Library of Congress.
The award, which recognizes individuals who have made a significant contribution to the cause of religious liberty, was be presented by Dr. Richard Land, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention.
In China, Fu served as a leader for the People’s University of Beijing student democracy movement, which ended in what became known as the Tiananmen Square massacre on June 4, 1989.
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