2,000 Wanbang Church Members Hunted, Interrogated and Threatened after Stand-off with Shanghai PSB

Church members met PSB officers in a standoff on Thursday night, protecting the associate pastor and helping him evade arrest.

November 13, 2009

SHANGHAI–Tensions reached a high when Public Security officials sealed off the doors and locked down Wanbang Missionary Church the evening of Thursday, November 12. Church members banded together at the doors as  officials barred the entrance to protect the associate pastor as he tried to leave the premises. PSB officials blocked their way, creating a standoff until church members agreed to leave after meeting for a short prayer service. Under the protection of the crowd, the associate pastor of Wanbang Church was able to escape.

Preparing to welcome President Obama, local Shanghai authorities have  launched a city-wide man-hunt for the members of Wanbang church, endeavoring to disband all religious meetings with the efforts of multiple agencies, including PSB, RAB, SSB (State Security Bureau) and Offices from District, Building management, and more. Already, many of the 2000 members have been severely questioned and threatened. These attacks followed the PSB’s unsuccessful attempts to break up the church gathering the morning of Sunday, November 8th, in their building and the first attack on November 2nd. Authorities broke in and banned the church on Sunday, November 2 (See the press release), (the first attack since banning the church in February) and issued the formal Notice of Abolishment to senior Pastor Cui Quan on Tuesday, November 10. All of seven church pastors also received official notices declaring their pastoral status as “self-claimed illegal preachers” and were ordered to stop their “illegal religious activities.”

The church website was also forcibly shut down by government censorship services the morning of November 8, to prevent any negative reporting on human rights prior to President Obama’s visit to China. Pastor Cui’s cell phone number is “no longer in service.” These restrictions are another step in clamping down on all communication of churches in the days before President Obama visits China, illustrating how bold the Chinese have become in blatantly ignoring religious freedom and human rights. Due to the intense central government-led crackdown, ChinaAid has been unable to obtain a copy of the Notice of Abolishment or any formal documentation of these attacks. Click here for a translation of the Chinese report on the incident, 11/12.

To encourage their church members, Wanbang leaders issued a letter on November 7–reclaiming the church’s virtue and credibility, after being slandered by government spies and local officials, and reasserting its strong orthodox mission and faith. Read the full text of the “Letter from Wanbang Missionary Church to Its Entire Congregation.”

Besides banning the whole church and its five pastors from any further activities, authorities subjected very believer who attended the church service to interrogation and fingerprinting, forcing them to take a pledge not to gather at that church anymore from this coming Sunday on. Sunday, November 15, 2009 poignantly also marks the day President Barack Obama arrives in Beijing. Human rights Attorney Li Baiguang has been hired as the lawyer for Wanbang Church in a civil suit protesting these actions–but if those in power, such as President Obama, remain silent, Chinese authorities will continue to ignore rule of law and basic human freedoms.

ChinaAid is outraged at the criminal treatment of peaceful Christians who are being hunted down and forced to pledge their refusal to meet for worship. The incident hearkens the horrific treatment of Tibetan Buddhist monks who were forced to trample on the icon of the Dalai Lama and renounce their faith earlier this year. President Obama’s refusal to meet the Dalai Lama sent a clear message to the Chinese government that the United States will not protest these gross human rights abuses.

ChinaAid calls on the international community to raise their voice, and remind the world that civilized peoples will not stand for repression of basic human freedom.

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