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5 Chinese Christians held for ‘illegal gatherings’ get bail

Ethnic Nu and Lisu Christians targeted for not joining state-run church, rights group says
A Lisu church in Fugong county of Yunnan province of China

A Lisu church in Fugong county of Yunnan province of China. (File photo: Bitter Winter)

Published: May 16, 2023 08:08 AM GMT
Updated: May 16, 2023 08:31 AM GMT

A court in Yunnan province in southwest China has granted bail to five ethnic minority Christians from the Nu and Lisu communities who were arrested and detained last August for allegedly “organizing and funding illegal gatherings.”

The Christians were released from the Fugong County Detention Center in the first week of May, rights group ChinaAid reported on May 15.

They returned home safely and were reunited with their families.  

Several Christian lawyers worked tirelessly over the past year to secure their release, the report said.

Lawyers Zhao Qingshan, Guo Haibo, Wen Yu, and Li Guisheng traveled hundreds of kilometers to Nujiang in Yunnan multiple times. They checked documents about the case and visited the imprisoned Christians.

Among the arrested Christians is Wang Shunping, a pastor who served the local church after graduating from Yunnan Theological Seminary in 2014.

He is a volunteer Bible and music teacher who taught guitar and piano to fellow Christians for free.

As Wang gained popularity, some villagers sent their children to him to study and learn music from him.

This reportedly came to the notice of local Public Security Bureau agents in Fugong County.

Wang, a member of the Nu group, was arrested on Aug. 17, 2022, for “organizing and sponsoring illegal gatherings.” Four other Christians, from both Nu and Lisu communities, including two females were also detained with him.

Earlier media reports claimed Wang and local Christians were already targeted by local Communist Party officials for their refusal to join the state-run Three-Self Church.

Lawyers fighting the case for the Christians met them in the detention center.

During a visit in September, Wang said that he did not break any law by teaching the Bible to undergrad students and that he did not feel it was illegal to attend and organize a Christian gathering.

His lawyer argued that Wang’s role in the gathering was legal as his actions are protected by China’s Constitution that safeguards religious freedom.

British Protestant missionary James Outram Fraser (1886–1938) preached Christianity among the Lisu ethnic group and Nu people in Nujiang Lisu prefecture in the early 20th century. Nu and Lisu are among 56 ethnic minority groups in China.

About 67 percent of the estimated 4.7 million population in Yunnan province belong to the dominant Han Chinese group.

However, in Nujiang Lisu Autonomous Prefecture, about 52 percent of more than half a million people belong to the Nu and Lisu communities.   

About 80 percent of Lisu people identify themselves as Christians, according to ChinaAid.

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