By BosNewsLife Asia Service with BosNewsLife's Stefan J. Bos
BEIJING, CHINA (BosNewsLife) -- The president of the Chinese House Church Alliance, a major umbrella group of underground churches, has been detained along with his interpreter while on his way to meet a senior European Union official, fellow Christian workers said.
Police arrested Pastor Zhang Mingxuan and his unidentified interpreter Wednesday, June 18, around noon local time while they were travelling in a bus to meet European Parliamentarian Bastiaan Belder, who is the European Parliament's Rapporteur on China-EU relations, BosNewsLife learned.
Bob Fu, a former house church pastor and president of advocacy group China Aid Association (CAA), told BosNewsLife in a statement that the two men wanted to meet Belder at the Yanshan Hotel in Beijing's Haidian District.
They are both being detained at an office of the Public Security Bureau (PSB), China's main law enforcement agency, in Haidian District, he said. CAA has urged the Chinese government "to release pastor Zhang immediately and unconditionally."
Wednesday's detention came after Zhang issued three open letter to the international community last year explaining the alleged “sufferings and persecutions” by officials of China's Communist Party since becoming an outspoken evangelist and leader of the House Church Alliance.
"Since his conversion to Christianity in 1986, Pastor Zhang has been arrested, beaten and incarcerated 12 times," CAA said. Most recently, PSB and state officials reportedly forced Zhang to close a Christian orphanage he had been running with his two sons.
Zhang and the orphans have continued to look for a home, but were refused several times by landlords who were threatened not to lease to the pastor, CAA said. Chinese officials had no immediate reaction. The arrest comes at a time when several rights organizations have reported a major crackdown on house churches and missionaries ahead of the upcoming Olympic Games in Beijing.
The Chinese government has however denied human rights abuses. It says Christians over the age of 18 are permitted to be involved with officially sanctioned Christian meetings through the "Three-Self Patriotic Movement" or the "Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association".
However many Chinese Christians prefer to meet in "unregistered" house church meetings, saying they want to worship Christ without Communist government interference.
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