Monday, March 7, 2005
By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent BosNewsLife
BEIJING, CHINA (BosNewsLife)– At least 10 foreign evangelical church leaders including eight Americans, one Taiwanese and an unknown number of South Koreans were detained and later deported by Chinese authorities, a Christian human rights watchdog said Thursday March 3.
US-based China Aid Association (CAA) claimed the deportations happened last week while an “imprisoned Beijing House Church leader pastor Zhuohua Cai was tortured for a confession with electric cattle prods.”
“…On February 24, over 100 Chinese security officers from five different government agencies raided an office building used as a temporary house church leadership training site in the suburb of Harbin city, the capital of Heilongjiang province, one of the major cities in northeastern China,” CAA added in a statement send to BosNewsLife News Center Thursday, March 3.
An estimated 140 Chinese house church leaders from several provinces and foreign Christians were attending the training program when the police raided the complex, CAA said, quoting a Chinese pastor.
Among the deported foreigners were well-known American church leaders Brad Long and John & Susan Chang, CAA said. Rev. Brad Long is an evangelical Presbyterian minister of Presbyterian Church USA and the executive Director of Presbyterian Reformed Ministries International, a North Carolina-based Christian training ministry. Rev. John Chang recently retired as president of the general assembly of Reformed Church in America and is now senior pastor of the Grace Christian Church in Flushing, New York City, CAA added.
CAA said they were released and forced to leave China after “a 13-hour detention and marathon interrogation” on February 25. A famous Taiwanese church leader, identified as Rev. Lin Yuyuan, and two other Chinese-speaking Korean Americans was also expelled at the same time, the human rights watchdog said.
All other 140 Chinese house pastors were also released, although the security forces confiscated about $2,500 in cash along with cell phones, and also installed “spy devices” in the computers of the deported foreigners, CAA quoted church sources as saying.
It came as another prominent Beijing House church leader, pastor Zhuohua Cai, was tortured with electric cattle prods by his interrogators to force him to confess that he “illegally managed a printing business and illegally profited $25,000,” CAA said, quoting an apparent eyewitness. There was no immediate independent confirmation of that report.
The 34-year-old Pastor Cai was reportedly detained last year by the National Security in Beijing
for allegedly printing “illegal religious literatures.” His wife Yunfei Xiao, along with her brother, Gaowen Xiao, and sister-in-law, Jinyun Hu, were also arrested September 27 while hiding in Hengshan County, Hunan province, CAA said. The Cais left a five-year old son Yabo Cai in the care of his grandmother who the organization claims “has been constantly harassed by the police.”
“To disrupt a normal Christian fellowship meeting and to detain and deport the participants of the same faith from other countries is certainly contrary to the government’s claim to guarantee religious freedom in China,” said CAA President Bob Fu. He added that the “torture of an innocent pastor like Cai for false confessions is a direct violation of the international human rights law.”
The reported persecution of Christians comes just days after the US criticized China for alleged
violations of religious rights. “While the number of religious believers in the country continued to grow, the Government’s record on respect for religious freedom remained poor, and repression of members of unregistered religious groups increased in some parts of the country,” the US State Department said Monday, February 28 in its annual country report.
“Members of unregistered Protestant and Catholic congregations, Muslim Uighurs, and Tibetan Buddhists…experienced ongoing and, in some cases, increased official interference, harassment, and repression. Government officials increased vigilance against ‘foreign infiltration under the guise of religion'” and “detained and prosecuted a number of underground religious figures in both the Protestant and Catholic Church,” the report added.
However in a reaction Thursday, March 3, China retaliated by issuing a report on what it claims are US offenses ranging from American soldiers’ abuse of Iraqi prisoners of war to mistreatment of ethnic minorities and even American citizens.
“The United States characterizes itself as “a paradise for free people,” but the ratio of its citizens deprived of freedom has remained among the highest in the world,” argued the Information Office of the State Council of the People’s Republic of China.
“Statistics released by the Federal Bureau of Investigation last November showed that the nation made an estimated 13.6 million arrests in 2003,” China said. Yet, at a regular news conference, Foreign Ministry spokesman, Liu Jianchao, admitted “China’s human rights are far from perfect.” “We still have many problems,” he said in comments aired by the Voice of America (VOA) network.
However CAA suggested that with deportations continuing, China is violating human rights and said it was time “people of all faiths” take action and protest the deportations of Christians as well as “demanding pastor Cai and his wife’s immediate release.” It said letters of protest can be sent to the Chinese Embassy in Washington DC: Ambassador Yang Jiechi Embassy of the People’s Republic of China, 2300 Connecticut Ave NW, Washington DC 20008. (With BosNewsLife News Center, BosNewsLife Research, Reports from China and the United States)