Pastor still held after crackdown

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 12 April, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 12 April, 2011, 12:00am


A pastor in Beijing remains detained while most of his nearly 170 worshippers were released after a weekend crackdown on underground house churches in Beijing, a church leader said yesterday.

'All but one of the 169 worshippers being detained were released by 9am [yesterday],' said Jin Tianming, a pastor at Shouwang Protestant Church. 'Most of them were allowed to go home, although Pastor Li Xiaobai is still being detained since police took him away at around 8am on Sunday.'

Li was one of at least five church leaders who had been constantly harassed by authorities and forced to move more than 20 times since the church was founded 18 years ago. Shouwang lost its place of worship when authorities pressured the landlord to stop renting it last week.

Without giving details, Jin said one new member of the congregation had been beaten, though others were unharmed during questioning.

Hundreds of plainclothes and uniformed police appeared around the commercial building in Zhonggancun district early on Sunday and detained worshippers as they arrived to join a large service of more than 1,000 Christians.

Assemblies are banned at unregistered house churches, of which there are thousands across the mainland. The only legal assemblies are those affiliated with the state-run Three-Self Patriotic Movement Committee of the Protestant Churches in China or the state-recognised Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association.

Jin said some of his congregants were taken to a nearby primary school for questioning before being transferred to police stations closer to their homes.

'Of those taken away for questioning, some were gone for a few hours, others for 10 hours or more,' he said. 'From what I've learned, police recorded statements after warning them not to attend such gatherings again and asked them to sign promises in this regard.'

He said that although some signed the declaration, most refused yet were still allowed to go home.

Jin, as one of the church leaders, has been placed under house arrest since Sunday. 'Some police officers are still on duty outside my home, so I could not go out [yesterday] to get more information about what had happened at our church,' he said.