A Chinese underground church leader is blocked from attending a conference in Hong Kong.
AFP Unregistered churches, like this one in Linfen prefecture shown in a picture taken Dec. 9, 2009, operate in constant fear of raids by authorities.
Authorities in southwestern China blocked the prominent leader of an unofficial Christian church from traveling to Hong Kong for an evangelical conference on Tuesday.
Wang Yi, a family church organizer and rights campaigner, said he and three other church members were stopped at the airport in Chengdu, capital of Sichuan province, by police when preparing to board a flight for Shenzhen, the city neighboring Hong Kong on China’s mainland.
“As soon as we arrived at the Shuangliu Airport around 6 a.m. this morning, plainclothes police officers stopped us, taking us to the nearby station on Jiangxi Street,” said Wang via cell phone on Tuesday.
The church members planned to attend a training conference in Hong Kong for evangelical development and organization.
“Police said to me, ‘You cannot go to Hong Kong.’ But I said they didn’t have any reason to block me from traveling, so ‘If you release me I will definitely [try to] go to Hong Kong again because the conference will last until Saturday,’” he said.
Wang said he thought the police barring was linked to his rights defending activities.
Wang was kept at the police station while the other three church members were released shortly after they arrived. Wang’s companions entered Hong Kong on Tuesday.
After several hours, Wang was released from the police station and traveled directly to the airport, only to be detained again by police at around 3 p.m. This time he was confined to the same station until 8 p.m.
Wang Huasheng, one of the three released from police custody, said “It is unlawful for police to bar Wang Yi from traveling to Hong Kong.” But an officer on duty at the police station on Jiangxi Street in Chengdu denied limiting Wang Yi’s movement.
“No, we didn’t put him under house arrest, and he is free,” the officer said.
However, when asked why Wang was not allowed to go to Hong Kong, the officer said he was unaware of the details.
“I don’t know this particular case but he is definitely free,” he said before hanging up.
Unregistered or underground family Christian churches are often targeted by the ruling Communist Party, which allows religious worship only under the control of state-sponsored religious organizations.
But despite official crackdown, numbers of family churches in China have increased dramatically in recent years.
Officially an atheist country, China has an army of officials whose job is to watch over faith-based activities, which have spread rapidly in the wake of massive social change and economic uncertainty since economic reforms began 30 years ago.
Party officials are put in charge of Catholics, Buddhists, Taoists, Muslims, and Protestants. Judaism is not recognized, and worship in unapproved temples, churches, or mosques is against the law.
China is on a U.S. State Department blacklist concerning international religious freedom.
The department said in its annual report on religious freedom last year that the Chinese government “increased the severe religious repression” in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region and that repression “remained severe” in the Tibetan Autonomous Region.
Reported by Xin Yu for RFA’s Mandarin service. Translated by Ping Chen. Written in English by Joshua Lipes.
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