ucanews.com reporter, Hong Kong
Updated: December 13, 2015 10:58 PM GMT
Choir members at a Beijing church service in this 2014 file photo. (Photo by Greg Baker/AFP)
Chinese authorities have released four pastors and two lawyers, leading opponents of a controversial cross-removal and church demolition campaign in Wenzhou.
The latest detainee, Protestant pastor Wang Yunxian of the Longwan Church in coastal Zhejiang province, was released Dec. 11 by authorities in Wenzhou.
The authorities also released pastors Cheng Chaohua, Huang Xiaoyuan and Zhou Jian and attorneys Fang Xiangui and Liu Peng on Dec. 8-9. Two other pastors were freed in late November.
However, Zhang Kai, the key lawyer who represented the churches in challenging the cross-removal campaign, remained in jail along with six other pastors.
A Wenzhou minister who identified himself as Luke said that Fang said he wasn't tortured during his detention but that "psychological pressure was inevitable."
Luke told ucanews.com the prisoner releases were "beneficial" to repairing China's image at home and abroad.
He also said the prisoner releases may be linked to the promotion of Chen Yixin, Communist Party secretary of Wenzhou — often known as the "Jerusalem of the East" because of its large Christian population — to be one of President Xi Jinping's top economic advisers.
"He may not want to leave himself a bad name before moving to Beijing," Luke said.
As Wenzhou's party boss, Chen was said to have presided over the cross-removal and church demolition campaign in the name of clearing illegal construction, according to the "South China Morning Post."
"Chen showed no distinctive performance as party boss of Wenzhou. The top leaders admired his firmness in the demolition campaign as he had to withstand great pressure domestically and internationally," said a Wenzhou Catholic named Peter.
It's estimated more than 1,500 crosses were removed, churches totally or partially demolished in Zhejiang during the two-year campaign that began in late 2013.
Local sources believe the campaign has subsided as China prepares for a planned national meeting on religious affairs.
….As we enter the first months of 2022, we are asking readers like you to help us keep UCA News free.
For the last 40 years, UCA News has remained the most trusted and independent Catholic news and information service from Asia. Every week, we publish nearly 100 news reports, feature stories, commentaries, podcasts and video broadcasts that are exclusive and in-depth, and developed from a view of the world and the Church through informed Catholic eyes.
Our journalistic standards are as high as any in the quality press; our focus is particularly on a fast-growing part of the world - Asia - where, in some countries the Church is growing faster than pastoral resources can respond to – South Korea, Vietnam and India to name just three.
And UCA News has the advantage of having in its ranks local reporters who cover 23 countries in south, southeast, and east Asia. We report the stories of local people and their experiences in a way that Western news outlets simply don’t have the resources to reach. And we report on the emerging life of new Churches in old lands where being a Catholic can at times be very dangerous.
With dwindling support from funding partners in Europe and the USA, we need to call on the support of those who benefit from our work.