China detains 49 in raid on underground church

Thousands of dollars worth of property were seized from church during raid.

Last Updated: May 11, 2011, 18:20 PM IST

Beijing: Chinese police have detained 49
leaders of an underground Protestant church in a central
province, an advocacy group and local official said Wednesday.

The US-based China Aid Association said all three
floors of a church building in Henan province`s Weishi county
were searched and thousands of dollars worth of property were
seized during the raid yesterday on a religious education
seminar.

Also detained were three Korean citizens, including a
Bible instructor, the group said. South Korea`s Foreign
Ministry said it had no immediate information about the
reported detentions, which reflect long-standing ties between
South Korean church groups and Chinese believers.

An official with the Weishi county religious affairs
bureau today confirmed the detentions but gave no details.
Like many Chinese officials, he gave only his surname, Sun.

China requires all religious groups to register and
accept Communist Party oversight, although millions of
believers continue to worship in unregistered congregations
that typically have an evangelistic, charismatic character.

That includes members of Beijing`s unregistered
Shouwang Church, who have recently repeatedly defied police
demands and attempted to gather for banned outdoor services,
leading dozens to be detained. The group, which includes
numerous intellectuals, was evicted from its rented space
under police pressure.

Rural congregations, drawn from poorer, less-educated
communities, tend to be more vulnerable to coercion from
authorities.

This month, a US commission listed China as one of the
worst violators of religious freedoms. Beijing denies the
charge.

Today`s raid came on the second and final day of
twice-annual high-level talks between US and Chinese officials
that were overshadowed by sharp US criticism of China`s human
rights record.

In an interview published yesterday on the website of
The Atlantic magazine, US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham
Clinton said China`s human rights record was "deplorable" and
that history was not on the side of governments that resist
democracy.

PTI