Chinese House Church Troubles Occur as China-Vatican Relations Improve

A well-known Beijing church activist and his 76-year-old mother were harshly treated and wounded by the police on Friday, a Chinese religious freedom group reported over the weekend.

Hua Huiqi and his mother were attacked by seven police officers while walking near a 2008 Olympic hotel site, according to China Aid Association on Saturday. They were kicked to the ground and taken away to the Olympic Police Station for questioning. Hua was reportedly beaten by police officers repeatedly when he questioned why he was detained and asked for his mother who was sick to be released.

“The detention of innocent peaceful Christians like Mr. Hua and his mom is certainly contradictory to the Chinese government’s human rights commitment for 2008 Beijing Olympics,” said the Rev. Bob Fu, president of China Aid Association, in a statement on Saturday.

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Fu used to be a close coworker of Hua and his Christian minister wife, who are active house church Christians in Beijing. The couple is known for helping persecuted Christians and oppressed peasants throughout China to gain justice from the central government.

Hua’s wife was informed over the phone on Saturday by the police that Hua was sentenced to one month of criminal detention. Aside from the phone call, none of Hua’s family members have received any official notice regarding his detention.

The report of Hua’s persecution came at a time when China and the Vatican are both seeking to renew ties. Last weekend representatives from the officially recognized Chinese Catholic church and Vatican representatives met to debate how to restore diplomatic relations.

Response to the meeting from both sides appear hopeful with both sides willing to compromise and discuss differences such as the Vatican’s strong ties with Taiwan and the appointment of bishops.

Last year, China ordained three bishops without the approval of the Vatican, resulting in greater tension between the two. Catholic Church tradition says only the pope has the authority to appoint bishops, not a local church.

Normal relations between the two bodies has been broken since China’s communist takeover in 1951. Since then, China only officially recognizes Catholic churches loyal to the government rather than to the pope.

There are an estimated 10 million Catholics who belong to unofficial congregations loyal to Rome.

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