15 May 2000 (Newsroom) — Chinese police have arrested more than 10 house-church leaders across the southern province of Guangdong over the past several days, according to an Australian-based monitoring group. Two evangelists, Ah Kong and Ah Yung, co-workers of well-known evangelist Li Dexian, were arrested Monday morning, the Christian group Voice of the Martyrs said. No other names were available at press time.
A house church leader in Guangzhou, who wished to remain anonymous due to security reasons, confirmed to Newsroom by telephone that a number of church leaders have been arrested but had no further details.
Voice of the Martyrs (VOM) said that the arrests took place in the areas of Fo Gang, Li Xi, Xing Xiang Shan, Tian Wei, Huadu, Xin Hua, and Ping Shan.
In January, the state-run People’s Daily reported that China intends to push forward with a crackdown on groups not sanctioned by the government. China watchers note that Guangdong has been a particular target. Guangdong Communist Party secretary Li Changchun has made the market-oriented province a base for “Jiang Zemin Thought,” the ideological teachings of the Chinese president, according to a South China Morning News report in April. Analysts in Guangzhou say that Li wants to alleviate the president’s concern that the province, which has enjoyed greater prosperity than other parts of the country, is straying from the communist path as it embraces Western investment and values.
VOM’s Oklahoma office said that on Monday Public Security Bureau officers in Huadu village near Guangzhou barred the doors of the meeting place where Li Dexian preaches each Tuesday. The 46-year-old evangelist was arrested before he could preach last Tuesday and held for 12 hours. He has been arrested 14 times since October.
Chinese authorities are pressing Li to bring his Christian activities under state control. Local Public Security Bureau officers have told Li that the decision to arrest him has come from higher authorities. According to the Compass Direct news service, Li’s colleagues fear that he may be headed for a three-year prison sentence. A Guangzhou source told Compass: “Something has to give in this situation. Li is becoming exhausted, and the police are getting more and more frustrated.”
Many religious leaders in China have been detained without charge for up to three years under an administrative sanction applied at the discretion of police, called “re-education through labor.”
Despite the threats, Li has remained unrepentant, declaring to a colleague last year, “We must not forsake the gathering of ourselves together as Christians, no matter what the risk.”
In 1998, Chinese Christians smuggled out a Communist party document expressing official disapproval of Li’s work. The document stated: “Li Dexian is Guangzhou’s illegal religion organization’s leader â€¦ he has preached illegally in our town for nearly 10 years. He has been arrested and educated many times, and yet his heart has not died and his nature has not changed.”
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Used with permission.