Mon, Dec 25, 2006 - Page 4 News List

Eight underground church members sentenced in China

AP , BEIJING

Eight Chinese Christians have been sentenced to prison on charges that they led a crowd that fought with police in an attempt to stop the demolition of an unauthorized church, China's government news agency reported.

The sentence was handed down on Saturday by a court in Hangzhou, where the clash occurred on July 29 over a house built for use as a church, the Xinhua news agency said.

About 20 people were injured in the clash between 500 officers and 3,000 protesters in Xiaoshan District, rights groups said.

It appeared to be one of the largest recent confrontations between police and members of an underground Chinese church.

Shen Zhuke (沈柱克), convicted of being the principal perpetrator, was sentenced to 3.5 years in prison. Ni Weimin (倪偉民) and Feng Guangliang (馮光良) received two years, while Luo Bingliang (駱炳良) received one year.

At least 10 government employees were injured, Xinhua said.

The government allows worship only in churches, mosques and temples that are run by state-monitored religious groups.

The demolition in Hangzhou followed orders from provincial authorities that month to crack down on "illegal religious buildings," according to the Information Center for Human Rights and Democracy in Hong Kong.

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