BEIJING, CHINA (BosNewsLife) -- Over a dozen Christians will spend Christmas behind bars in China after police raided a Christian leaders gathering in Henan province, while in the capital Beijing two officials of the banned Chinese House Church Alliance were detained, an advocacy group and Chinese Christians confirmed Thursday, December 18.
More than 40 Christians were arrested Tuesday, December 16, in an area of Henan's Nanyang city, where authorities interrupted a meeting of Christian leaders, said the US-based China Aid Association (CAA).
After paying fines of up to $300 in local currency, most were freed, but 16 Christian leaders, including a man hosting the gathering, Yan Linshan, received 10 to 15 days "administrative detention" on charges of involvement in an "illegal religious gathering," the group added.
Elsewhere in Beijing news emerged Thursday, December 18, that Pastor "Bike" Zhang Mingxuan was being forcibly escorted from the Chinese capital Beijing to Hubei province by three officers of the Public Security Bureau (PSB), China's main law enforcement agency.
The PSB officers dropped off Pastor Bike at a hotel in Hubei, without enough money to pay for a room, in an apparent effort to force him to end his activities as president of the Chinese House Church Alliance, which authorities banned in recent weeks.
The Alliance represents many of China's expanding 'house churches', named this way as they are held in homes of believers, outside the government backed denominations. "This is the second time in two weeks Pastor Bike has been forcibly escorted out of Beijing," said CAA, who added it reached the preacher by mobile phone Thursday, December 18, while he traveled in a police van.
"During the call, PSB officers raised the volume of the car radio to try and drown out the conversation, but Pastor Bike was able to communicate to CAA that he was taken while staying with Pastor Hua Huiqi at his home..."
The pastor was quoted as saying that he has been "secretly followed and watched" since a similar incident on December 9, when he was reportedly also forced to leave Beijing.
"Pastor Bike was staying with Pastor Hua Huiqi when police broke into the home around 11: 30 p.m. This incident happened on the eve of the 60th anniversary of the UN's "Universal Declaration of Human Rights" and on the eve of the 10th anniversary of the signing of "International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights" by the Chinese government," CAA recalled.
Speaking to US-funded Radio Free Asia Pastor Hua reportedly said that [ "Bike"] Zhang Mingxuan "let me read the document of abolishing the Chinese House Church Alliance." Soon after their dinner, security forces and officials allegedly broke into his house and "dragged and pushed" him to another room. "I told them I had a guest in my home and they shouldn't tell me that my guest couldn't stay here."
He said Pastor Bike was eventually escorted by force to a police vehicle. "Since he came to Beijing, we have been very good friends. We are also very good brothers in Christ and there is nothing wrong in receiving him as a guest."
Police allegedly harassed Pastor Hua, as well, trying to convince him to cooperate. Pastor Hua's mother, Shuang Shuying, 78, is currently in prison. She is serving a two-year sentence for "intentional damage of properties" in February 2007. Pastor Hua said, "The Municipal Public Security Bureau has been telling me that as long as I cooperate with them, I can, first of all, make a fortune and then I can also get my mother out," CAA reported.
Pastor Hua reportedly said the requirements for "cooperation" include spying on other Christians and not helping those who are persecuted.
The pastor regularly hosts allegedly persecuted Christians in his home and helps them pursue legal cases.
Church groups say there there has been growing pressure on Christians worshiping outside official churches. Officials have denied wrongdoing, saying Christians are enjoy religious freedom within the official Protestant and Catholic churches.
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