The Voice of the Martyrs
House church leaders in Gu La Town, Yunnan Province, China, were thrilled when police called and said they could get government registration for their church group. The group had been seeking registration, which would give legal sanction to their church meetings, since the Chinese government changed the law on church registrations in 1994. When they were told to bring their leaders to a meeting to sign the needed documents, they praised the Lord for answering their prayer.
But when the groups top 12 leaders arrived at the meeting on June 6, there were no documents to sign. Instead, what awaited them were officers of the Public Security Bureau (PSB), the Court Marshalls office and the prosecutors office. The 12 were arrested at the Fu Ning County office of the PSB, in the Wen Shan Autonomous Region of Yunnan Province. Police had no arrest warrants or documentation required by Chinese law.
Police say these are law-breakers, said VOM spokesman Todd Nettleton. But this clearly shows that these are patriotic citizens trying to follow their countrys laws if they can do so in good conscience. How sad it is that the police use the lure of registration to arrest these Christians.
Eight of the leaders were immediately sentenced to three years of laogai, so-called re-education through labor. This sentence can be given in China without filing formal charges or a formal trial. The other four leaders were indicted and held for trial, which likely means they will face sentences longer than three years.
The group has been targeted by PSB officers since a so-called anti-cult campaign in 1997. In 1998 eight of the groups leaders were sent to a labor camp. Some were first put on illegal public display, where police encouraged passers-by to spit on them.
The crackdown on house churches in Yunnan province continued last week, when 20 evangelists were captured at an underground Bible School in Kunming. All of the evangelists were in their 20s, and were full-time workers in Chinas underground church. Since the arrest on June 18, officers in the Kunming Detention Center have called the families of the evangelists, offering to let them go in return for money.
The evangelists were part of the An Hui house church movement.
This is business-as-usual for the underground church in China, said Nettleton. The Chinese government talks about religious freedom, but its actions speak much more loudly.
VOM contacts are working with Chinese Christians to get the names of all those arrested, as well as additional details.
American Christians are urged to pray for all of those currently held, that God will protect them and help them endure. In addition, pray they will have opportunities to witness for Christ in jail.
A polite call of protest to the Religious Affairs desk at the Chinese embassy
in Washington DC (202-328-2512) would also be helpful.