Protestant leader says dissidents exaggerate to win asylum A senior leader of the mainland's official Protestant governing body yesterday accused Christian dissidents of using claims of religious persecution as an excuse to seek asylum. Reverend Deng Fucun, vice-chairman of the Three-Self Patriotic Movement Committee of the Protestant Churches of China, made the comment when asked about two mainland dissidents active in the underground church in Beijing seeking political asylum in Australia. Gao Feng and Jin Cheng last month filed an application with the Australian immigration authorities after leaving China some time before June this year, according to Liu Qing , president of the New-York based Human Rights in China. 'I have not heard about these two persons,' Reverend Deng said. 'Many people seeking asylum are using religious persecution. How many of [their cases] are actually related to the religious cause?' He was speaking after the opening ceremony of an exhibition on the Bible Ministry of the Churches in Hong Kong. Mr Gao served a 30-month jail term in the late 1990s for disturbing social order in Beijing. He was involved in writing an article revealing the plight of laid-off workers and poverty-stricken families in Beijing. Mr Jin, 43, an art designer, was imprisoned for 18 months in the early 1990s for publishing a human rights magazine. He was also detained twice in a week in 1998 after releasing a letter criticising former Beijing mayor Chen Xitong for corruption and accusing him of provoking the 1989 military crackdown. Religious rights groups often report persecution of unregistered churches and adherents in China. The US Commission on International Religious Freedom put China on a list of countries of particular concern in February. But Reverend Deng supported the government line that religious freedom was guaranteed and protected in the mainland. 'The Bible is a main thing in Christianity. Now we are printing a large quantity of Bibles. If there is no religious freedom, would this be possible?' The Three-Self Patriotic Movement was founded in 1954 as China's official Protestant body to promote Beijing's religious policies. With the China Christian Council, which was established in 1980 to administer church affairs, the two bodies govern the Protestant churches in China. The president of the China Christian Council, Cao Shengjie , echoed Reverend Deng's comments. 'We feel that no one on the mainland is persecuted because of their religion. If they have any problems, there may be other problems, such as political reasons or breaching the law that tie in.'