Huainan (AsiaNews) A House Church clergyman has been arrested and accused of "illegally printing and distributing Bibles and other Christian literature". Pastor Wang Zaiqing, 43, is also charged with illegal business practices, this according to US-based China Aid Association (CAA), an NGO fighting for religious freedom in China.
According to a CAA spokesperson, a Security Protection Squad from the Public Security Bureau (PSB) of Huainan City, in Anhui province, notified his wife of the arrest on May 26.
"He is now being held at No. 1 Detention Center of Huainan City," the spokesman said, "and his wife might be arrested as well."
According to the CAA, charges were laid based on an internal secret document entitled 'Notice on Preventing and Dealing with Illegal Activities by Using Christianity' issued by the National Department of Public Security and the State Administration on Religious Affairs.
"On April 25 and 26, Pastor Wang's house was searched twice and a number of items were confiscated including Christian literature such as Hymnals, Christian Life Quarterly magazine Why Believe Jesus, Chinese Church History, Pauline Epistles and bank cards as well as an electronic piano used by Pastor Wang's daughter".
Two days later, Pastor Wang was taken from his home and declared under 'criminal detention' by Huainan City's Public Security Bureau.
The spokesperson explained that "Pastor Wang was crippled at the age of five from an illness. He became a Christian in 1993 and later became a very well-known House Church planter and preacher in several provinces around Anhui. He has been printing and distributing Bibles and other Christian literature to fellow believers free of charge to meet the rapid growth of believers."
Legal experts say this is the third such case in which the Chinese government has used a criminal business-related charge against a House Church pastor.
Last April 26, Pastor Liu Yuhua from Shandong province was arrested on the same charge. Last year, Beijing Pastor Cai Zhuohua was sentenced to three years imprisonment for illegally printing Christian literature.
In mainland China, Protestant Christianity can exist only within the framework of the 'Three Autonomies Movement' (TAM), an umbrella organisation set up in 1950 after Mao's takeover and the expulsion of foreign missionaries and Church leaders, including those who were Chinese.
According to official figures, state-sanctioned Protestant Churches within TAM have some 10 million members. Estimates put the number of members in underground Churches, known as House Churches, at more than 50 million.
The ecumenical delegation will be in the country from January 7 to 16. Meetings scheduled with the authorities of the Religious Affairs Office and with the Three-Self Patriotic Movement; preaching in the oldest Protestant churches in Beijing; visits to Shanghai and Xian. But unofficial Christians (80 million) are more numerous than the official ones (20 million) and criticize the Movement’s subjection to the Party.
Zhang Rongliang, a "patriarch" in China's house churches, is convicted for "attaining a passport through cheating" and "illegal border crossing". His health is reason for great concern.