Unofficial Christian church members and leaders are being targeted by China’s government in its latest clampdown on dissent sparked by calls for “Jasmine” rallies inspired by recent uprisings in the Middle East.
More than 100 members of the Shouwang Protestant church were detained by police in Beijing after they attended an open-air prayer gathering on Sunday.
Shouwang’s Pastor Jin said the authorities had released most of the congregation by Monday night.
“Yesterday evening they started releasing them one by one, and by 3 a.m. [Tuesday] morning they were basically all released,” Jin said.
“Only the pastor still remains in the police station.”
Jin said he was still at home and had been prevented from going out.
Shouwang has vowed to continue with outdoor services in defiance of pressure from the government, which seeks to contain religious worship in an approved form under government organizations backed by the ruling Communist Party.
While leaders of China’s unofficial churches, which overseas groups estimate as having some 40 million followers, say their activities have little to do with politics or human rights, raids on unofficial worship have been stepped up in a recent nationwide security clampdown.
Shouwang’s 1,000-strong congregation has had problems finding a venue to hold services, a situation that leaders blame on government interference.
Meanwhile, a pastor of a house church in the northern province of Shaanxi is unconscious in hospital following a beating by police using electric batons, a U.S.-based rights group said.
Wang Zhanhu of the Chinese House Church Alliance was beaten by local police on Friday.
Wang said from hospital on Tuesday that the beating began when he was asked for his identification out on the street, and argued that there was no good reason for him to show it.
“One of the policemen from the state security police hit me in the shoulder,” Wang said. “Then another took out an electric baton and struck me with it.”
“Then I lost consciousness and didn’t wake up for a long while.”
The China Aid group said in a statement that the beating was “just one of several alarming cases of mafia-style persecution tactics” reported by its sources in recent weeks.
Alliance chief Zhang Mingxuan said the authorities in the central province of Henan had walled up the front door of an elderly pastor of a house church there with bricks.
“About six months ago, they had the neighbors wall up the front door of his home with bricks, so no one could get in or out,” Zhang said.
The pastor, Zhang Tielin, had previously made several trips to Beijing to complain about his treatment at the hands of local officials.
“Brother Zhang went to Beijing to fight for his human rights,” he said. “When the police caught him, they sent a message to the provincial authorities.”
And officials in the eastern province of Jiangsu recently threatened a former government-backed church pastor with immediate detention if he accesses the Internet, China Aid said.
Pastor Zeng Zhengliang’s house church in Zhong village, Yancheng city, had recently seceded from the government’s “Three-Self” Patriotic Movement of Christian churches, the group said.
The U.S. State Department blasted China’s human rights record in an annual report last week, saying the situation is “worsening.”
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Washington has been concerned by the unrelenting crackdown on dissidents by Chinese authorities since February.
The State Department wrote in its 2010 Human Rights Report that Chinese individuals and groups continued to face restrictions on their freedom to assemble, practice religion, and travel.
Meanwhile, the central government continued to curtail the cultural and religious rights of ethnic minorities in Xinjiang and Tibet, it said.
China dismissed the report as a pretext for interference by Washington in its internal affairs, publishing its own report on the human rights situation in the United States.
Reported by Wen Yuqing for RFA’s Cantonese service, and by Qiao Long for the Mandarin service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.