Wed, Aug 02, 2006 - Page 4 News List

Two arrested for building `illegal church' in China


China yesterday confirmed that two people were arrested for building an illegal church that was demolished in Hangzhou on Saturday, after a rights group said hundreds of police had clashed with up to 3,000 Christians.

The arrests were made after the Christians refused to move from land that officials said they had illegally occupied in Hangzhou's Xiaoshan District, the official Xinhua news agency quoted local government official Qiu Youlai as saying.

Illegal building

"The district government carried out the demolition and arrested two people involved with the illegal construction according to law," Qiu said.

"Before demolishing the building, the government had negotiated with the Christians and offered a plot of land nearby for their use," he said.

The site was earmarked for a commercial center, but the church was erected in just 12 days and completed on Saturday, the day it was demolished, Qiu said.

The agency did not mention any clashes between police and supporters of the church, but local officials on Monday confirmed that police and supporters of the church had clashed.

`Not serious'

The Hong Kong-based Information Center for Human Rights and Democracy on Monday said about 500 police officers clashed with 3,000 Christians outside the church, but a Hangzhou city police official said the incident was "not as serious as you have heard."

The center quoted sources as saying 20 Christians were injured, four of them seriously.

China officially has about 16 million Christians, but activists claim the true figure is closer to 40 million. Hangzhou's Xiaoshan District has about 80,000 Christians, the agency said.

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