A religious freedom advocacy group has called on the international community to put pressure on China to respect the rule of law after the destruction of an unofficial Protestant church in the country's Shanxi province - writes Francis Wong.
Hundreds of people in uniforms and civilian clothes raided the church in Fushan County in central China on 13 September 2009 after local authorities claimed it was housed in an illegally constructed building and was not a church, the Texas-based group ChinaAid said.
ChinaAid claimed that the local authorities had mobilised about 400 uniformed police and other hired attackers to demolish the new church building, which was located at a shoe and clothing factory.
China has Christians who belong to official government-sanctioned churches, and what is said to be a growing number of other believers who belong to unofficial or "house" churches, as they are sometimes called.
ChinaAid said that the authorities had brutally beaten up Christians who were sleeping at the site of the church and that "several church members were severely injured, fell unconscious and had to be sent to the hospital for emergency care". The attack left more than 100 people injured, said the US-based group.
On 18 September, the Rev Bob Fu, president of ChinaAid, told Ecumenical News International, "The overall situation around the 60th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China has worsened recently. There are many more arrests against innocent citizens."
Fu, who is an exile from China, said, "We appeal to the Chinese government to stop persecuting these peaceful Christians, to hold these abusive officials accountable and to allow the Fushan church to be restored." He added that the authorities should, "compensate those believers who are hospitalised due to the violent attacks by government officials. We ask the international community to pray and to pressure the Chinese government to respect citizens' religious freedom and the rule of law."
ChinaAid has further reported that the Fushan authorities arrested six local church leaders on 19 September, and forced them to meet government officials to negotiate a settlement over the destruction of the Fushan church.
The ChinaAid Web site (www.chinaaid.org) now says that the authorities have arrested the person who texted the story of the attack on the Fushan church, and he is currently being held in detention.
[With acknowledgements to ENI. Ecumenical News International is jointly sponsored by the World Council of Churches, the Lutheran World Federation, the World Alliance of Reformed Churches and the Conference of European Churches.]