Fri, Apr 21, 2006 - Page 5 News List

US Christians detained briefly after China raid

AP AND AFP , SHANGHAI AND BEIJING

Chinese police detained five US citizens in a raid last month on a Christian retreat in the country's southwest, an overseas church monitoring group said yesterday.

They were released after five hours of interrogation, along with two Taiwanese and 80 Chinese citizens representing congregations worshiping outside the tightly controlled official state Protestant church, the China Aid Association said.

The US citizens, three of whom are ethnic Chinese, are attached to churches in Greensboro, North Carolina, the association said. It did not identify them by name because they are still in China.

Interrogators accused the five of being "foreign religious infiltrators," it said -- not a formal criminal charge, but a reflection of the Communist Party's fears that outside forces are using burgeoning Christianity to undermine their rule.

About 120 officers took part in the raid on a conference center outside Kunming on the morning of March 23, said the association, based in Midland, Texas.

Calls to the Kunming police spokesman's office and the city Religious Affairs Bureau rang unanswered yesterday.

The association said that China detained at least 1,300 underground Chinese Christians and 17 foreign missionaries last year.

"The persecution against Protestant house churches in China has intensified," the association said in a statement.

A total of 1,317 detentions of house church pastors, leaders and believers occurred in 20 provinces while 17 foreign missionaries, including 11 Americans, were detained between February and December last year, it said.

Most were released after they had been interrogated for periods ranging from 24 hours to several months, the group said. But it claimed that police and state security agents tortured, drugged and practised other abuses against some of the detainees.

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