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China again detains worshippers

Police prevent Shouwang church members from celebrating Easter outdoors in third raid

Mike MacLachlan, London
United Kingdom

April 25, 2011

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Police cracked down for a third successive week on worshippers at a house church in Beijing on Easter Sunday. BBC television news showed police in plain clothes stopping people in the street and herding them on to buses to be taken away for questioning. The crackdown was intended to prevent members of the Shouwang house church holding an open-air service as they have tried to do since their eviction from the building they had previously used as a church. The Shouwang evangelical church in the northwestern district of Haidian is one of Beijing’s biggest underground churches with more than 1,000 adherents, according to Damian Grammaticus, the BBC’s Beijing correspondent. There are 20 million worshippers at officially approved Christian churches in China, he said, but about 50 million underground. The US based ChinaAid group, which monitors religious persecution in the country, said that as on the previous two Sundays police were waiting at the church’s designated outdoor meeting site in Zhongguancun. Some church members were able to assemble in small groups in nearby restaurants, where they held impromptu services. “We are deeply disappointed that the Chinese authorities chose to disrupt peaceful worshippers who were simply celebrating Easter today,” ChinaAid founder and president Pastor Bob Fu said in a statement. Shouwang’s  leaders, including its founder, Pastor Jin Tianming, have not been allowed out of their homes for more than two weeks, ChinaAid said. Also detained were the Shouwang choir, reputedly the best of the Beijing house church choirs. The choir had been practicing for months for the Easter celebration.
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