Beijing police arrested dozens of Christian worshipers yesterday from a “house church” — one not formally recognized by the government — when they tried to pray outdoors, a rights group said. They sang hymns and said prayers as police loaded them onto waiting buses in Beijing’s western Hai-dian District, the US-based Christian rights group China Aid said in a statement, citing witnesses.
“The Beijing authorities have again demonstrated their total disregard of their citizens’ constitutionally guaranteed fundamental right to religious freedom,” China Aid founder and president Bob Fu (傅希秋) said in the statement.
Police declined to comment when contacted and requested written questions be faxed to them.
The New York Times reported that one if its photographers was among those detained, but was later released.
China Aid said more than 100 were detained, but the newspaper said “dozens” of people were held.
The US and the UN have expressed serious concerns in the past week at a growing crackdown across China in which artists, lawyers, writers, activists and intellectuals have been detained.
The church incident comes a week after Ai Weiwei (艾未未), an outspoken artist who helped design the “Bird’s Nest” Olympic Stadium for the 2008 Beijing Games, was detained for unspecified “economic crimes.”
The church tried to hold services in the open air after it was evicted from a rented space because the landlord was pressured to not renew the lease, China Aid said.
Shouwang, one of Beijing’s largest house churches, invited its members to meet yesterday morning at an open air public platform linking the SinoSteel Building and the South China Poetic Restaurant building, China Aid said.
Some of the detainees were taken to a nearby elementary school where authorities took down their names and other details, the statement said.
Several church leaders were called to their local police stations on Saturday, with some spending the night in detention, while others were told they were not permitted to leave their homes yesterday, the statement said.
China only allows religious worship in state-approved churches.
Organizers of underground churches are routinely sent to labor camps without trial.
Meanwhile, the government has called on organizers of an annual series of inter-university debates on the meaning of the 1911 revolution to cancel the event amid fears of unrest in the country, a Hong Kong newspaper reported yesterday.
The ban, ordered by the Beijing Municipal Committee of the Communist Youth League on Friday, was the first since the event was launched in 2002, the South China Morning Post (SCMP) reported. The debates were scheduled to commence on Saturday.
The move comes amid a nationwide crackdown on dissidents calling for a “Jasmine Revolution” and political liberalization in China.
Sixteen universities, including top institutions of learning like Peking University, Renmin University of China and Tianjin University, were to take part in the debates, the SCMP said. Beijing’s keen sensitivity to the political threat of mass mobilization is believed to have been the principal reason behind the decision to cancel the event.
Wen Yunchao (溫雲超), a -Guangzhou-based blogger better known as Beifeng (北風, or “North Wind”), told the paper that the timing of the event, the nature of its participants and the topics for debate were very sensitive in the eyes of the authorities.
“The competition was to take place on weekends and a group of university students were going to debate topics related to democracy and revolution,” Wen said.
Organizers said this year’s debates were meant to encourage students to review the 1911 revolution, also known as the Xinhai Revolution, and its effects on contemporary China and to focus on the Three Principles of the People expounded by Sun Yat-sen (孫逸仙) — nationalism, democracy and livelihood.
The event’s Web site said: “Let us reassess this part of the history against the backdrop of its 100th anniversary,” adding that aside from looking at the “exciting victories” of the revolution, students should also look at “what is hidden beneath — the awakening of people’s awareness in this country and the spread of democracy.”
Zhang Ming (張明), a professor of politics at Renmin who was among the judges selected to oversee the competition, said Beijing had hoped to use the centenary of the revolution as a means to engage Taiwan, which will also be holding activities to celebrate the occasion.
While the authorities were unlikely to cancel all celebrations, they would avoid sensitive issues such as democracy and revolution while emphasizing patriotism, Zhang said, adding that to maintain social stability, Beijing was even willing to sacrifice engagement with Taiwan.
For the students, who were reportedly disappointed at the sudden turn of events, Beijing’s latest move comes in the wake of tightened control in university areas in Beijing to prevent students from heeding calls for political rallies. Part of those efforts include a program at Peking University to identity “radical students” and dispatch them to “meetings” with campus administrators, the SCMP said.
FLIGHT RISK? The driver of the truck that slid onto the tracks, causing the crash, was released on NT$500,000 bail, but prosecutors have requested that he be detained Premier Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) yesterday listed three priorities in response to the deadliest accident involving a Taiwan Railways Administration (TRA) train in the past 40 years: rescuing the injured, clearing the single-track tunnel and assisting the families of the victims. Taroko Express No. 408, traveling from New Taipei City to Taitung on Friday morning, derailed as it entered the Cingshuei Tunnel (清水隧道) in Hualien’s Sioulin Township (秀林). Of the 496 people on board, including four TRA personnel, 51 had died and 188 were injured as of 7pm yesterday, after the train hit a crane truck that had slid down a slope
IN A HURRY: The 199,200 doses of AstraZeneca vaccine expire on May 31, so the CECC might expand vaccine eligibility, but distribution would begin in a week at the earliest The first batch of COVID-19 vaccines allocated to Taiwan through the COVAX global vaccine-sharing program arrived yesterday, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said, adding that, after testing, it would be able to distribute them by Monday next week at the earliest. The 199,200 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine were shipped from Amsterdam on a China Airlines (中華航空) plane and arrived at Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport at 5:21am. After the cargo was examined and release procedures were completed at the airport, the Aviation Police Bureau escorted the vehicles carrying the vaccines to a cold chain storage facility. Centers for Disease Control Deputy Director-General
HEATED TRAFFIC: As Beijing holds naval drills near Taiwan, the Ministry of National Defense said it had a full grasp of the situation and would handle it ‘appropriately’ A Chinese carrier group exercising near Taiwan is part of what are to be regular drills, the Chinese navy said in a statement late on Monday, further escalating tensions between Taipei and Beijing. The group, including the aircraft carrier Liaoning, was conducting “routine” drills in the waters around Taiwan, a move to “enhance its capability to safeguard national sovereignty, safety and development interests,” the statement said. “Similar exercises will be conducted regularly,” it said, without elaborating. The statement came after the Ministry of National Defense earlier on Monday issued a statement regarding a rise in the number of incursions by Chinese jets into
AIMED AT TAIWAN? Institute for National Defense and Security Research research fellow Ou Si-fu said chips can be ‘bought off the shelf’ and then used in weapons The Ministry of Economic Affairs (MOEA) yesterday said that chips from Taiwanese semiconductor companies were not making their way into Chinese missiles “to the best of our knowledge.” A report in yesterday’s Washington Post alleged that a Chinese company named Phytium Technology Co (飛騰) used chips made by Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co (TSMC, 台積電), along with US software, in advanced Chinese military systems. “TSMC has long placed strict controls on their chips. The export of high-tech products from Taiwan is also highly regulated,” Minister of Economic Affairs Wang Mei-hua (王美花) said. “According to our understanding, none of the end uses for those products