Chinese police detain Protestant worshippers


CHINESE POLICE detained at least a dozen Protestant worshippers from the Shouwang “house” church in Beijing as the congregants gathered to hold Easter services yesterday, and then took them to a local police station.

Others were prevented from leaving their homes as they left to meet near a public square in the city’s university district, Haidian. This has become a weekly event since the church was evicted from its usual place of worship three weeks ago. Its leaders were reportedly under house arrest.

The congregation is one of Beijing’s biggest and the previous weekend it staged an outdoor meeting that was broken up by police, with scores of detentions. The pressure on the church is seen as part of a wider crackdown on dissent in China.

The Chinese constitution guarantees freedom of worship, and about 15 million Protestants and five million Catholics worship at official churches, but more than 50 million others reportedly worship at “house” churches, which refuse to submit to regulation.

The house churches have grown strongly in recent years from small groups of friends meeting in people’s homes to large, highly visible congregations. This has irritated the Chinese leadership, which is wary of any social group that might challenge single-party rule by the Communist Party.

Other religions are also affectedby the ongoing crackdown. There have also been reports that two elderly Tibetans died after a stand-off between Chinese security forces and residents outside the Kirti Tibetan Buddhist monastery in Sichuan province.