China Aid Association
(Baoding, Hebei—Feb. 17, 2012) A small gathering of house church Christians whose conversions were originally due to the evangelism efforts of the official Three-Self church was broken up by unidentified local authorities in north China and six people were put under administrative detention in a case of violation of religious freedom that is now being appealed to higher authorities.
On Jan. 31, more than 20 Christians were holding a service in the home of a believer in Wangdu county in Baoding, Hebei province. At 10 a.m., as they were listening to a Bible exposition by Pastor Sui Zhigang who was visiting from northwest China’s Jilin province, about a dozen people burst into the room. Without showing any kind of identification, they demanded to know whose residence it was and started to film as they took away the pastor and the host of the gathering. Later, all those who were at the service were taken to the Wangdu police station and interrogated. Following their interrogations, they were taken the same day by officials from the local town and village government.
At 11 p.m. that night, Pastor Sui and six Christians—four women and two men—were taken to the Wangdu detention center where they were administratively detained for 15 days. However, the Wangdu police failed to give the detainees any of the paperwork for their detentions, nor were their family notified as required by law. On Day 12 or 13, the Wangdu police submitted to the Baoding Municipal Public Security Bureau paperwork for “re-education through labor” for the detainees. It was at this point that Zhang Kai, a Beijing lawyer prominent in the rights protection movement, was brought in by Pastor Sui to handle the case.
On Feb. 14, Zhang filed a legal opinion with the Wangdu police and the Baoding branch of the Domestic Security Protection Department. On the same day, he received the penalty decision notification for the six detainees and learned that they had been punished for “illegal gathering” according to Article 55 of the “Regulations on Administrative Penalties for Public Security.” On Feb. 15, the six were released in the evening after having served the 15 days of their administrative detention. Their appeal will be filed shortly.
Zhang is a prominent young Christian lawyer who has already handled a number of highly publicized case, including the 2010 “My Father is Li Gang” case (a fatal hit-and-run accident in which the drunk driver, when arrested, shouted that “my father is Li Gang,” thinking that his father’s position as a local deputy police chief would get him off), as well as the sensational 2010 case of the death of village chief Qian Yunhai, whom many in China believe was murdered by the government.
The roots of the Wangdu house church go back to 2005, when Pastor Sui was invited by the government’s Three-Self Patriotic Movement church to go to Wangdu county to preach about the Bible. He was warmly received by the local Christians and there were many conversions. But the Three-Self church came under pressure from higher authorities and decided not to invite Pastor Sui again. Later, however, some of the members of the Three-Self church found that they were able to continue to hear Pastor Sui’s preaching via the Internet and were greatly blessed. They established their own house church, and in 2009 and 2010 invited Pastor Sui to come and train and have fellowship. When they invited him again this year, they were raided. One of those there at the time said the whole incident was instigated by a Three-Self informer who said that Pastor Sui’s preaching was contrary to the Bible and violated the law, but this is yet unproven.
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Rachel Ritchie, English Media Director
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