Chinese Gov't Deceiving President Bush, Claims Rights Group

A pro-house church group claims the Chinese government is using deception to convince U.S. President Bush to visit a government-sanctioned church during his visit to China for the Beijing Olympic Games by claiming it incorporates house churches.

President Bush has committed to visiting Kuanjie Protestant Church in Beijing as an act of support for Chinese house churches after officials told him that the government sanctioned church assimilates house church Christians, according to the China Aid Association.

But Texas-based CCA said it investigated Kuanjie Church and found that the "house church incorporation" is in actuality a series of government sanctioned "house cells" that have permission from authorities to meet outside of the government sanctioned building.

The so-called house church "cells" are led by pastors who have been trained and appointed by the government and who are required to obey the rules set by the TSPM (Three-Self Patriotic Movement) church body, CAA claimed.

"By creating such a system, the Chinese Government has created a false sense of inclusion of house churches into mainstream society and has deceived many world and even evangelical leaders into believing China has ceased religious persecution," the human rights group alleged.

The TSPM is the government-sanctioned church body that oversees Protestant Christian groups. In China, it is illegal to worship or organize Christian gatherings without registering with the TSPM. There are about 10 million members within the state-approved Protestant church group.

"With outside leaders adding validity to the TSPM churches, House Churches are constantly being painted as dissenters and lawbreakers, while simply trying to worship in true freedom," CAA added.

Bush, who has met several times with CAA president Bob Fu, is known to be a strong supporter of religious freedom and Chinese house churches. CAA in a statement Thursday alerted Bush and other leaders about the alleged true nature of Kuanjie Church.

"China Aid urges President Bush as well as other leaders to not be deceived by the CPC (Communist Party of China)'s ploys to appear as if they are tolerant of religion while at the same time brutally persecuting House Churches and their members across China," it urged.

The China-focused human rights group also reported that the president of the House Church Alliance, Zhang Mingxuan, and his wife were detained by Chinese authorities this week. The two, along with another pastor, are supposedly being held in an undisclosed location in the eastern province of Henan.