China: Police raid Christian summer camps
|Publisher||Radio Free Asia|
|Publication Date||12 July 2012|
|Cite as||Radio Free Asia, China: Police raid Christian summer camps, 12 July 2012, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/5000250b10.html [accessed 19 June 2013]|
|Disclaimer||This is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.|
The action by the Chinese government is the latest in a series of crackdowns on 'house' churches in Xinjiang.
Choir members sing Christmas carols at a church in Shanghai, Dec. 24, 2011. Imaginechina
Chinese authorities in the troubled northwestern region of Xinjiang have detained seven teachers and questioned up to 70 primary-school children following a raid on a Christian summer camp, a U.S.-based rights group said this week.
"Police ... raided a house church Sunday school, rounded up 70 children and their teachers for questioning, and locked up seven women teachers in a local detention center," the Christian rights group ChinaAid said in a statement on its website.
It said the children were attending the camp in the regional capital, Urumqi, when the police action occurred on the morning of July 2.
"Police from the Qiangfanggou police station and agents from the Sha district Domestic Security Protection Department rounded up all the children and Sunday School teachers and took them to a school where they were questioned," ChinaAid said.
"Some of the children's parents and school principals and teachers were also summoned and questioned."
According to ChinaAid, seven women Sunday-school teachers, who included Bao Ling, Wang Xingxing, Luo Qinqin, and Lu Xia, are still being held in the Xishan detention center.
ChinaAid president Bob Fu said the incident was the latest in a series of crackdowns on the region's unofficial "house" churches.
"This is another serious case of oppression of house churches in the Xinjiang region since the beginning of July," Fu said.
"Also in July, there was an attack by state security police on the home of a pastor from Shatian district called Zhong Shuguang."
He said police searched Zhong's home and confiscated items of his property, which had not yet been returned.
Fu called on the Chinese authorities to immediately release the teachers and to end what he called persecution of peaceful religious believers in the region, whatever their faith.
The raid comes just a few weeks after authorities in the eastern province of Jiangxi detained three people following an earlier raid on a Christian children's summer camp.
The camp was run for elementary school students from June 2-7 by the Houcun house church in Jiangxi's Lichuan county and another house church in the area.
"At 11 a.m. on June 6, officers from the Houcun police station and the public security bureau, officials from the religious affairs bureau, and some primary and secondary school principals swarmed into the classroom, took down the names of everyone in the room and confiscated a laptop and projector," ChinaAid reported.
It said the teachers had been warned that it was illegal for children under the age of 18 to become religious believers, and ordered the church to stop holding classes about Christianity for the local youth.
ChinaAid said that property confiscated from the church had yet to be returned.
Henan-based pastor Zhang Mingxuan, who heads the nationwide Protestant Chinese House Church Alliance, said the Lichuan Sunday-school teachers had since been released.
"They detained them and then let them go," Zhang said. "They confiscated some property but they didn't issue a receipt."
"There were a few dozen students [at the summer camp], and a lot of people went [on the raid], including the head of the religious affairs bureau, police and people from the education bureau," he said.
"They threatened the house church members and told them they weren't allowed to hold meetings."
'No freedom of religion'
A Houcun house church member surnamed Wang said she had been present during the raid.
"They took the teachers to the police station ... and they told us that the children were under 18, and they wouldn't have the freedom to choose [their religion] until they turned 18," she said.
Wang said the police had yet to return any of the confiscated items.
The head of the county religious affairs bureau, who gave only his surname Mei, said the raid had been handled through close coordination with the police, and directed by his bureau.
"We considered this matter in accordance with the law on the management of minors and youths," Mei said.
"This is a very specialized matter," he said.
Reported by Gao Shan and Qiao Long for RFA's Mandarin service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.