CSW Reports on Alleged Clamp-Down on Christians in China Ahead of Bush Visit

A number of Christians or advocates of human rights were believed to have been targeted and detained by the Chinese authorities during U.S. President Bush’s recent visit to China.

Gao Zhisheng, a prominent human rights lawyer, released an open letter on Nov. 22, appealing for international help in securing his protection after being closely followed and threatened by over 20 secret agents prior to Bush’s visit, according to the U.K.-based human rights watchdog Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW).

The targeted persecution is likely related to Gao’s involvement in the prominent case of the Beijing house church leader Pastor Cai Zhuohua, who was arrested by the authorities in September 2004 following the discovery of 200,000 copies of the Bible and other Christian literature in a storage room he managed.

Gao had been defending Cai, who on Nov. 8 was sentenced to three-year imprisonment for "illegal business practices," sources from CSW say.

In China, Amity Foundation is the only authorized printer legally permitted to print limited numbers of Bibles.

During his recent trip to China and prior, President Bush urged for more freedom for the people of China, including the printing of Bibles and other sacred texts. Bush’s calls came around the same time when Gao was targeted by the authorities, according to CSW’s previous statement.

Also in the city of Beijing, CSW reported that house church activist Mr. Hua Huiqi and his evangelist wife Wei Jumei were asked to go to Sichuan Province on Nov. 17 – two days before President Bush’s visit – by Xuanwu District Public Security Bureau (PSB) office, allegedly an attempt to prevent them from meeting with President Bush. According to reports, PSB had gone as far as purchasing flight ticket for them.

The couple was allowed to return to Beijing on Nov. 21 but was required to stay in a hotel, sources say.

Another key Christian figure, Pastor Zhang Mingxuan, and his son Zhang Chuang, were placed in a car by several security agents from Henan Province and driven away from Beijing on Nov. 18, according to CSW. They were detained in a government guest hotel in Sheqi County in Henan until President Bush left China.

Regarding to these reports, CSW's Stuart Windsor commented, "It is very concerning that while the spotlight of international scrutiny and attention is on China's human rights, she would so overtly target a prominent champion of human rights. This is especially so as Mr Gao is seeking to protect the population through the application of China's law."

"We hope that China will take the opportunity of international exchange to evaluate its policy and practice and bring Chinese law into conformity with international standards on human rights and those who protect them," he added.