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Arrest first, ask questions later

"Arrest first, ask questions later" Continued...

Issue: "Faith-based about-face," Aug. 27, 2005

The two women still in custody mid-August were the hostess, 60-year-old Ren Daoyun, and 38-year-old Gu Junqing. Eyewitnesses said Ms. Ren has endured multiple beatings and passed out several times in detention. Authorities transferred Ms. Gu to a detention center in her hometown in Henan province.

The South China Church is the most severely persecuted house church in the country, said Mr. Fu. The main reason, he said, is the churches' "strong emphasis on evangelism and cultural renewal, and of course a very strong leadership."

In 2001, authorities arrested founding pastor Gong Shengliang. They initially handed death sentences to him and four other church leaders, but later commuted them. Mr. Gong is now serving a life sentence and reportedly suffers physical abuse in prison. Four female church members served three years in re-education camps for recanting forced statements saying Mr. Gong had raped them.

One of the women, 34-year-old Liu Xianzhi, spent six years altogether in a camp, her first stint ordered for illegally evangelizing. She made rugs and Christmas lights before her release in February 2004. A year later, she escaped to the United States and spoke tearfully at a Washington press conference about the torture used against her to extract a confession against Mr. Gong. Officers beat her with an electrical rod, hung her by her hair until she lost consciousness, and tore her clothes off.

After having its leadership gutted, however, the South China Church has recovered: "I was told all the major activities in terms of the church are back to normal," Mr. Fu said.

Mr. Pilson's arrest came on his first trip to China. A Washington, D.C., native, he is a student at Westminster Seminary in Escondido, Calif. Mr. Cohee studies at Westminster Theological Seminary in Dallas. If their visit turned sour, they did receive an assurance when finally released. The Hubei police apologized and told them, "You can come back and we'll welcome you."

House-church crackdown
July 2004 to August 2005

•Hebei province April 2005: A Roman Catholic bishop and two priests arrested for refusing to register with the Patriotic Catholic Church.

•Heilongjiang province February 2005: Eight Americans arrested and deported after attending house-church gathering; authorities also detained 140 Chinese church leaders.

•Henan province August 2004: 100 arrested. June 2005: 100 pastors arrested. By August, further 30-40 Christians also arrested, and five Americans.

•Hubei province August 2005: 42 Chinese and two American seminarians arrested. Americans released after seven-hour interrogation; several Chinese tortured while in custody.

•Jilin province May 2005: 600 house-church Christians in Jilin arrested in a raid on about 100 churches.

•Jiangxi province August 2005: About 30 Christians arrested.

•Xinjiang province July 2004: 100 Christians arrested. August 2005: Between 30 and 40 Christians arrested.

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