Authorities in Zaoyang Municipality of Hubei Province Raid Christians’ Legal Study Session

—A report by Gong Ping, information officer CHRD (China Human Rights Defenders)
On the afternoon of February 23, as a group of Christian co-workers in Dianzi Street of Yangdang Town, Zaoyang city of Hubei province got together to attend a lecture by a lawyer on the church’s legal rights defense, they were raided by a combined force of the local police and the people in charge of religious administration.  All the people who participated in the study session were taken to the local police station and some of them were beaten and their computers and other items were seized.  By 11 p.m., two brothers were still being detained at the local police station.
Following is the account of a Christian contacted by the information officer of CHRD:
Today, nearly 40 of our co-workers got together and asked a lawyer named Guo to give us a lecture on legal issues related to religion so that we could study together the legal clauses by which the church can defend its rights. 
As we were taking a rest in the courtyard at about 5 o’clock in the afternoon, about 30 people, including people in charge of religious administration of Zaoyang Municipality, some police officers and officers from Yangdang Town Police Station, surrounded the venue of our study and took all the people present (close to 30 people – about 10 people had already gone home during our rest) to Yangdang Town Police Station. 
The police and the agents in charge of religious administration searched and seized the computers and cell phones of the people present, and they also seized a DV video recorder.
During the search and seizure of these items, the police wanted to grab the cell phone from a sister.  When that sister didn’t want to give them the cell phone, four police officers rushed over to her and pinned her on the floor where they grabbed her cell phone.  One of the sisters present was so shocked by the scene of violence that she passed out on the spot. 
The police and the people in charge of religious administration only handwrote a document that claims the legal study by the Christians is an illegal assembly.  During all this process, they didn’t show any valid legal documentations in accordance with law. 
When they took all the participants to the local police station and made the written records, several brothers were slapped in the face by the officials.  Most of the Christians were not released until after 8 p.m.  However, two brothers were still being detained at the police station at midnight.  In the meantime, the seized items have not been returned either.  At about 11 p.m., a group of brothers went over to the police station and demanded that they return the seized items.
As of the CHRD’s publication of this article, the Christians still haven’t got their items back.  Treating citizens in such a way merely because they want to get some knowledge in law is a gross deviation from the principle of rule of the country by law and a serious violation of citizens’ rights of religious belief and of getting together to study.  The Zaoyang police of Hubei and the department in charge of religious affairs should be denounced.

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