Crackdown on church
SIX underground Christian leaders were arrested during a police crackdown on a house church meeting in Shanxi province, church sources said.
Police raided the meeting in Changzhi, in the south of the province, on April 13, the day before Good Friday, and arrested everyone at the gathering, sources said.
The six church leaders - three from other provinces - are still in custody while other churchgoers have since been released, sources were quoted by the Hong Kong-based Chinese Church Research Centre as saying.
The three Christian leaders from other provinces were identified as Li Tian'en, a house church leader from Shanghai; Chen Qunying, a retired surgeon from Hangzhou and a Brother Shi who is a relative of the late Christian leader Wang Mingdao.
Both Li and Chen are in their 60s. The retired surgeon was said to be suffering from diabetes and heart problems.
His home in Hangzhou was searched by the authorities last Thursday, according to the sources. They believe that the six church leaders arrested may not be released for up to three months.
A Hong Kong church observer said the house church in Changzhi was not registered with the government-sanctioned Three-Self Patriotic Movement.
In the past, it has been common for police to raid clandestine church meetings during Christian festivals.