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China releases 5 house church leaders

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of
Washington (BP)--Chinese Christians rejoiced at the release of five house church leaders from labor camp, only to hear shortly thereafter on Aug. 30 that an opponent of forced abortion will be sent to a prison built specifically for him.

The five released leaders included four women -- Gao Fuqin, Zhao Guoai, Yang Caizhen and Yang Hongzhen -- and one man, Li Shuangpin, who were all arrested for their involvement with the Fushan House Church in Linfen, reports ChinaAid, a group that monitors religious freedom. Five of the church's leaders remain in prison.

Caizhen was released in February on medical parole because of a nearly fatal liver ailment, and the other four were released last month, according to ChinaAid.

The only legal churches in China are registered with the government-sanctioned Three-Self Patriotic Movement. However, with registration come restrictions on baptism, Sunday School and evangelism, said Bob Fu, ChinaAid's founder and president.

Located approximately 470 miles southeast from Beijing, the Linfen church building was destroyed in September 2009 in a one-day attack led by 400 police officers, government officials and hired men, according to ChinaAid. Dozens of Christians were beaten, and more than 30 sustained critical injuries. This attack also destroyed the church's source of income, the Good News Cloth Shoes Factory, and was one of the largest cases of religious persecution in the last few years.

Within a month of the attack, 10 of the church's leaders were arrested and the remaining five -- Xiao Guang, Yang Xuan, Cui Jiaxing, Yang Rongli and Zhang Huamei -- are still imprisoned.


"The Linfen church leaders and their families suffered cruel persecution for the sake of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the church," Fu said in a statement. "They paid the price with great honor for the sake of the Gospel.

"We express our great respect for them, and continue to lift up prayers for them and their families. These loyal and devoted brothers and sisters are not only the hope of the church, but also are the hope of Chinese society."

Meanwhile, the detainment of Chen Guangcheng -- an outspoken abortion opponent -- shows that persecution continues to prevail in China.

The government is building a small prison just for Guangcheng, who is blind and has been ill since being released from jail in October 2010, along with his wife, Yuan Weijing, for their opposition to forced abortion, reports Radio Free Asia.

Since being released, the couple has been under unofficial house arrest in Shandong, which is about 270 miles south of Beijing.

The forced move from their home to the new prison will separate Guangcheng and Weijing from their young daughter, reports Radio Free Asia. The couple also has an older son, who lives with family in another country.

Women's Rights Without Frontiers -- an international group that opposes China's forced abortion policy -- said in a statement that the government has stolen the couple's personal items, such as a television, a computer and some books. The couple has been severely beaten, prevented from receiving medical care and denied food.


"The couple is constantly surrounded by 66 guards and multiple surveillance cameras tracking their every move inside and outside their home," said Robert Littlejohn, president of Women's Rights Without Frontiers, in a statement. "Why is the so threatened by a blind, sick, penniless man that they have to build a personal prison for him? They seek to make an example of Chen, to demonstrate how they will punish anyone who challenges their forced abortion policies. But they are really making an example of their own, shameful brutality."

Guangcheng was initially arrested in 2006 after exposing that women in one county of Shandong alone had endured 130,000 forced abortions and involuntary sterilizations in just one year.

Whitney Jones is a student at Union University and the news editor of the Cardinal & Cream newspaper.

Copyright (c) 2011 Southern Baptist Convention, Baptist Press

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