By Worthy News Asia Service
BEIJING, CHINA (Worthy News)-- Chinese security forces detained a prominent house church leader Thursday, March 4, at a restaurant in southern China where he and a dozen other Christians had lunch, Chinese Christians said.
Pastor Wang Dao of Liangren Church was arrested when plain-clothed and uniformed officers of the Public Security Bureau (PSB), one of China's main law enforcement agencies, “barged into the local restaurant” in Guangzhou, the capital of Guangdong Province, said Christian rights group China Aid Association (CAA).
The incident happened as the church leader was "meeting with twelve brothers and sisters for a meal," CAA told Worthy News and its news partner BosNewsLife. It quoted eye-witnesses in the restaurant as saying that policemen "threw Pastor Wang violently to the ground, without showing their [identity cards] or any official documentation."
CAA, which has close contacts with house church Christians in China, said security forces "seized Pastor Wang and rushed him outside to a waiting vehicle, shoving him into the back seat as they tore off down the street."
His whereabouts were not immediately clear Thursday, March 4 as Christians were apparently unable to contact him.
The incident, described by CAA as "the boldest strike" in recent months, followed two years of reported harassment by local authorities. "For more than two years, the Guangzhou police have harassed the house church believers of Liangren Church for their faith," CAA explained.
Pastor Wang Dao has faced "severe persecution" with fellow believers in Guangzhou since the church was founded in 2005, Christians said. In 2008, the local government reportedly banned Liangren Church for allegedly organizing "illegal" religious meetings.
Pastor Want launched several appeals against the government ban and continued organizing worship services, despite opposition from courts and authorities.
"He was last interrogated for more than three hours on September 3, 2009, when officers questioned him about his involvement with the Chinese Christian Charter", a proclamation of faith by Chinese Christians.
TIANANMEN SQUARE MASSACRE
The Charter was signed and released on June 4, 2009, the 20th anniversary date of what became known internationally as the "Tiananmen Square Massacre", when Chinese troops shot and killed at least hundreds of protesters demanding democratic reforms.
"Pastor Wang Dao has been interrogated repeatedly by PSB officers looking for ways to discredit him and his faith," CAA said, adding that it has urged authorities to release him "and end their unjust persecution of [the] peaceful Liangren Church."
"We [also] call on the international community to pray for Wang's safe return," the group added. Church groups say there has been a government crackdown on house churches, which are named this way as they are often organized in homes of believers.
Many of China's estimated 130 million Christians prefer to meet in house churches who operate outside the official denominations allowed by the Communist government.
China has come under international pressure to improve religious rights, but authorities say Christians are free to worship within the government-backed churches.