Two U.S. Seminary Students, 41 Believers Arrested in China during Raid

Two theology students visiting China from the United States were reportedly arrested earlier this month along with 41 church pastors after police raided the house at which they were staying, according to a Chinese Christian persecution watchdog group.

The two students, who the Texas-based China Aid Association believed to be from Westminster Theological Seminary Campuses in Texas and California, were arrested on the morning of Aug. 2 as they were preparing to have fellowship with 41 Chinese House church pastors in Zaoyang City, Hubei Province.

At 9:30 a.m., approximately 30 Chinese plain-clothed police officers rushed into the house arresting the two students and later confiscated some of their belongings, including their personal bibles, notebooks, and books on Westminster Confession of Faith, China Aid reported Monday.

“According to several eyewitness reports, the two American theological students, believed to be from Westminster Theological Seminary Campuses in Texas and California, were handled very unprofessionally,” the group reported.

“One sustained injuries to his wrists after being handcuffed because he wanted to put his shoes on before he was forced into an unmarked police car."

According to China Aid, police refused to reveal the identity of the two students and that the two were neither permitted to contact the U.S. Embassy nor permitted to show their U.S. passports and other forms of identification. Both were taken to a government "hotel" for interrogation and later released at 5 p.m. following a 7 hour interrogation.

“To disrupt and close normal Christian fellowship meetings, as well as confiscate personal property is contrary to the government’s claim to guarantee religious freedom in China,” said Bob Fu, China Aid’s president.

“To handcuff innocent American tourists and mistreat them is unprecedented, totally unacceptable and certainly deserves strong diplomatic condemnation.”

Meanwhile, as the two students were being interrogated, the 41 Chinese pastors and believers from the evangelical South China Church were reportedly taken to No. 2 Zaoyang Prison, according to China Aid.

As of Monday, 30 of the 41 were released while the remaining eleven are still in prison. Many of the eleven have reportedly been repeatedly beaten.

“Sixty-year-old Ms. Ren has been repeatedly beaten by the director of the prison, [who] kicked her, punched her face, and beat her head against the wall with a prison chair. One eyewitness told CAA that Ms. Ren’s mouth was bleeding and swollen,” the group reported.

In China Aid’s Aug. 8 report, Fu urged “people of all faiths to take action to protest the mistreatment and torture of these pastors and demand their immediate release.”

According to the association, more than 210 Chinese house church pastors and believers have been arrested in Hubei, Hebei and Henan Provinces since July 2005.