Chinese House Church Leaders Arrested; Korean Missionary Expelled

Chinese authorities have arrested several "underground" church leaders and deported a South Korean missionary in a recent rash of crackdowns directed at house churches, according to a report released by a religious freedom advocacy group.

The China Aid Association reported the April 26 arrest of Liu Yuhua at the northeast province of Shandong, and the deportation of South Korean missionary Cui Rongbu, who was arrested along with ten others in the eastern province of Jiangsu last week.

"This new wave of arrests is certainly a contradiction to the Chinese government’s commitment to religious freedom," said CAA president Bob Fu, concerning the recent report.

Liu was arrested on "charges of illegal business practices" for secretly printing Bibles and Christian literature. CAA said that Liu intended to print the material for his congregation, and did not receive money for distributing books.

Police later searched Liu’s office without a warrant, and seized from his bank account 8,600 Yuan ($1,100).

Legal experts say that Liu’s arrest emulates the 2005 case of Pastor Cai Zhuohua, who is serving a three-year prison sentence for printing Christian literature without government approval.

The Amity Printing Press, the only government-approved printing firm, claimed to have printed more than 39.46 million Bibles from 1981-2005, which are openly available for purchase.

Underground church members have long complained, however, that purchases of Amity-printed Bibles are limited to government-approved church bookstores that often regulate the number of Bibles an individual can buy.

Some house church leaders have turned to printing their own materials to fulfill their congregation’s need, said Texas-based CAA.

The incident last month was followed on Sunday by the expulsion of Korean-national Cui Rongbu, whose Korean name was not released in the CAA report.

Cui, an ordained pastor, was rounded up in a police raid at a house church Bible study of 60 underground Christians. Police rounded up all eleven pastors, some of whom were beaten with electric shock batons after they resisted arrest because police came without warrants, said an eyewitness.

All eleven were released after being interrogated for ten hours, including Cui’s translators Cai Zhirong and Wu Changle. Cui, however, was detained the following day and asked to leave China within 48 hours.

The latest CAA report comes days after three prominent Christian activists met with U.S. President George W. Bush. After the conference, Bush promised to raise questions concerning religious freedom at future meetings with Chinese leaders.

China’s Christians are only allowed to worship at state-monitored churches, though many "underground" house churches have refused to go through the registration process.

The exact number of Christians remains unknown in China, though the Chinese official churches claim a membership of roughly 11 million believers. Some sources have speculated that the number may stand between 40-100 million of China’s population of over 1.4 billion.

Fu said that he hopes China will release the pastors, and that he encourages "the Chinese government to take concrete actions to demonstrate the true spirit of rule of law."