Chinese authorities have arrested a journalist for posting reports on the Internet about the government's demolition of a church and its crackdown on a group of Christians, a Paris-based press freedom group said yesterday.
Zan Aizong (昝愛宗), a recently converted Christian and journalist for the China Ocean News in the Zhejiang capital, Hangzhou, began a week's detention on Friday evening after he wrote reports on the Internet decrying the destruction of the church.
"This is one of the biggest religious freedom cases for some time," Yu Jie (余杰), a Beijing-based Christian writer who is close to Zan, said. "A large church was demolished and now over a dozen Christians are detained or arrested just for voicing their rights."
Zan issued a public letter to Hangzhou's police chief this week denouncing the demolition of the church in Xiaoshan, a booming satellite city of Hangzhou.
He was detained on charges of "spreading rumors harmful to society", Li Baiguang (李柏光), a Beijing-based Christian legal activist, said.
The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists issued a statement decrying Zan's detention as the latest in China's "massive crackdown on reporting sensitive topics like religion and public protest."
As many as 3,000 Christian residents of Xiaoshan clashed with police on July 29 after authorities began demolishing the church.
The official Xinhua news agency said the church, which was under construction, had no official approval and two people were arrested for blocking its destruction.
In his letter, Zan said that about 50 people were still in detention because of the protest, and many had been injured, 10 with broken bones. Other Christian activists said as many as 20 or so are still detained.
"Ensure human rights under the Constitution," Zan wrote. "We call for a responsible government that will quickly reveal the historic truth of the Xiaoshan incident, wipe out its pernicious effects and tolerate religious faith."
Hangzhou government offices did not answer calls yesterday, and police declined comment.