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Human Rights and Religious Freedom News

Archive for June, 2008

Seven Christians detained in Yemen for Promoting Christianity: Detainees, including American citizens, face torture

Posted by radiofreechina on June 28, 2008

By Michael Ireland
Chief Correspondent, ASSIST News Service
WASHINGTON, D.C. / YEMEN (ANS) — Yemeni authorities have arrested seven Christians, including an unknown number of American citizens, in the Yemeni province of Hodiada.

According to the Yemeni news website Sahwa Net, the Christians are charged with “promoting to Christianity and distributing the Bible [sic].” The paper does not clarify if the Christians were formally charged in a court of law based on those allegations.

The Washington, D.C.-based human rights group, International Christian Concern (ICC) http://www.persecution.org said the believers were arrested on June 18, 2008, The seven Christians were transferred to the capital city of Sana’a and the Yemeni authorities are investigating them. The ICC sources indicated that the Christians face the possibility of being tortured by Yemeni Security forces.

ICC says that among the arrested is Hadni Dohni, a Yemeni Muslim who converted to Christianity. The rest of the six are foreigners.

In a media release, ICC explains that Christians living in Muslim countries are coming under increasing persecution.

The group says: “Christians in Iran, Egypt and Algeria have seen a spike in anti-Christian activity. This recent imprisonment of Christians in Yemen is part of a growing persecution of Christians in Islamic countries.”

Please pray for the safety of these seven Christians, and that the Lord will protect them from torture and other types of mistreatment. Please pray for strength and courage for the seven as they go through this difficult situation, and that they will be released quickly.

You can also help by calling US or Yemeni officials about the seven Christians. Please go to http://www.house.gov and http://www.senate.gov to find the contact information for your elected officials and alert them to the imprisonment of these seven Christians. Make sure you let them know that Americans were detained as well. Ask them to put pressure on the government of Yemen to release them. You can find contact information for Yemeni embassies below:

Yemeni Embassies:

Country Phone Fax Email

USA:
(202) 965-4760; (202) 337-2017 ambassador@yemenembassy.org , political@yemenembassy.org
Canada :
(613) 729-6627; (613) 729-8915 info@yemenincandada.org
UK :
(+44) 207 584 6607; (+44) 207 589 3350 yemen.embassy@btconnect.com
Germany:
(030) 897305-0 ;(030) 897305-62

info@botschaft-jemen.de

ICC is a Washington-DC based human rights organization that exists to help persecuted Christians worldwide. ICC delivers humanitarian aid, trains and supports persecuted pastors, raises awareness in the US regarding the problem of persecution, and is an advocate for the persecuted on Capitol Hill and the State Department. For additional information or for an interview, contact ICC at 800-422-5441.

Contact: Darara Gubo, Regional Manager for Africa, 1-800-ICC (422)-5441, darara@persecution.org .

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Sichuan Church faces Government persecution: 20 arrested, 7 detained, 2 sentenced to Education through Labor

Posted by radiofreechina on June 25, 2008

By Michael Ireland
Chief Correspondent, ASSIST News Service
SICHUAN, CHINA (ANS) — As more than 50 house church members gathered at a residence on Bei Street, Qujiang Township, Qu County of Sichuan Province, they were raided by more than 20 Public Security Bureau officials, Homeland Security Defense Brigade, the local police station, Office for Religious Affairs and cadres from neighborhood committees.

China Aid Association (CAA) said the raid occurred at approximately 3 p.m. on Saturday, March 29, 2008. It said officials failed to show law enforcement identifications.

According to CAA, the house church members were accused of “engaging in cult activities through an illegal gathering.” Seven women were immediately taken away, while officials confiscated Bibles, books and other objects.

Among the people taken away, Zhou Yanying, Zhang Mingxiu, and Yan Zelie were sentenced to five days of administrative detention; Luo Qinghua was acquitted after a detention of 17 days; Wang Qingxiu, the head of the church, was accused of “undermining the implementation of the state law and regulations by utilizing a cult organization” and was sentenced to one year of education through labor on April 29.

On the second day, 10 members of the same house church met at 9 a.m. on Sunday March 30 to discuss the detentions and sentencing. The members were gathered at the residence of Ms. Li Xianbi located in Bei Street of Qujiang Township, when they were again raided by 20 PSB officials, Homeland Security Defense Bureau, the local police station, Office for Religious Affairs and cadres from the neighborhood committee. The officials again failed to show law enforcement identifications, CAA said.

CAA says the members were also accused of “engaging in cult activities through an illegal gathering.” Officials immediately detained nine women, including Lei Shibi, Wan Chaobi and four children. Bibles, books, personal bags and other objects were confiscated. Among the members involved, Yan Chuanfang, Yu Liyu and Li Xianbi were sentenced to five days of administrative detention; Xiao Yu was released pending trial after being detained for 12 days; Li Chixia, the head of the group, was accused of “undermining the implementation of the state law and regulations by utilizing a cult organization”, and has been sentenced to one year of education through labor on April 29.

CAA reports the members of this church submitted an appeal at Qu County Court House and Dazhou Municipal Intermediate People’s Court respectively on May 6 and May 16, but the appeal was rejected. Qu County Department of Administration claimed that these house church members are political prisoners and belong to a cult. On May 27, these Christians submitted their applications for administrative reconsideration to the Legal Section of Dazhou Municipal Public Security Bureau.

In an e-mail sent to ANS, China Aid Association strongly denounces the conduct of Qu County authorities of Sichuan in arresting and detaining citizens at will and infringing upon the citizens’ freedom of belief by bringing upon them criminal charges and sentencing them to education-through-labor programs.

The e-mail states: “The Chinese Government’s labeling of these innocent protestant Christians who wish to worship God in autonomy, is nothing more than an act of cowardice and an attempt to veil the unprecedented religious persecution within China from the international community.

“CAA and those around the world who are concerned call for the unconditional release of those detained and to encourage the international community to continue to show concerns and attention to the trend of deteriorating religious freedom in China prior to the Olympic Games.”

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VIDEO: Flight from North Korea!

Posted by radiofreechina on June 24, 2008

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Father of Chinese American Girl Languishes in Beijing PSB Custody

Posted by radiofreechina on June 22, 2008

By Michael Ireland
Chief Correspondent, ASSIST News Service
BEIJING, CHINA (ANS) — Prominent house church leader and Christian publisher, Shi Weihan, has been held in detention for the past three months by the Beijing Municipal Public Security Bureau on the grounds that he is a “dangerous religious element.”

According to China Aid Association (CAA), Mr. Shi’s attorney, Zhang Xingshui, made an inquiry at the public security bureau on Monday (June 16) as to the status of his client’s case.

CAA says that officials gave no information to Mr. Zhang except that Shi would continue to remain in detention. A court date was expected, since June 20 marked the end of two months of his unexplained captivity.

Normally, Public Security Bureau forces are not allowed to hold Chinese citizens for more than two months without formal charges.

CAA stated that despite having held Mr. Shi beyond the time legally allowed, absent formal charges or a court hearing, the PSB still refuses to allow his family or attorney to see him.

CAA says that claiming an ongoing investigation in what they are calling “a complex case,” the PSB has managed to hold the owner of a legally registered Christian bookstore in an undisclosed location without giving any assurances that he is receiving his needed diabetic medicine.

The PSB appears to be delaying any action on this case indefinitely, raising questions about his health and safety unanswered.

On May 16, the public security bureau also froze the bank account of the house church led by Mr. Shi Weihan. Security officials are also probing the fact that Shi was a member and coworker of CAA President Bob Fu’s House Church in Beijing before Bob and his family came to the US in 1997.

The ongoing contention of the case has brought severe stress and anxiety to Shi’s wife and two daughters, CAA said.

CAA calls on the Chinese Government to abide by its own rule of law and remain consistent with its stance on religious freedom and human rights, by unconditionally releasing Shi Weihan from custody.

CAA says that Chinese government officials, international human rights organizations, and foreign governments keen to understand China’s efforts to improve their record in the run-up to the Olympics should be asking the same questions of the Chinese Public Security Bureau officials, namely:

“Under what court-granted authority have they arrested and held Shi Weihan?”

“Is Mr. Shi being given a fair trial on legally brought charges?”

“Why is he being denied access to legal representation?”

China Aid says it will continue to monitor the situation.

To voice your concern over this matter, contact:

Chinese Embassy in Washington DC
Address: 2201 Wisconsin Avenue, N.W., Washington D.C. 20007
Tel: (202) 338-6688, (202)5889760
Fax: (202) 588-9760

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Chinese pastor and interpreter detained on their way to meet European Union official

Posted by radiofreechina on June 19, 2008

By Michael Ireland
Chief Correspondent, ASSIST News Service

BEIJING, CHINA (ANS) A Chinese pastor has been detained along with his interpreter when he was on his way to meet with a senior EU official in Beijing earlier today (June 18).

China Aid Association (CAA) says that according to a brief conversation over the phone at about 7:25pm Wednesday (Beijing time) with Zhang Mingxuan, Pastor Zhang was detained at 12:08pm on June 18 (Beijing Time) and being held at a Public Security Bureau office in Beijing.

CAA president Bob Fu was told over the phone that pastor Zhang was detained at a bus while he and his interpreter were on their way to meet with Dr. Bastiaan Belder (MEP), Rapporteur of the EP Committee of Foreign Affairs for the relationship between the EU and China, at Yanshan Hotel in Haidian District. Zhang’s cellphone was forced to shut down by a PSB officer.

Both men are being detained at the Shuangyushu PSB office of Haidian District, Beijing city. Pastor Zhang Mingxuan is the president of Chinese House Church Alliance.

CAA urges the Chinese government to release pastor Zhang immediately and unconditionally.

CAA says that Zhang Mingxuan, president of the Chinese house church alliance, issued three open letters to the international community last year, informing the world to the sufferings and persecutions he has endured at the hands of the CPC.

Detailed in his third open letter are the many hardships and injustices pastor Zhang has had to endure throughout the years since becoming an outspoken evangelist and leader of the house church alliance.

Since his conversion to Christianity in 1986, Pastor Zhang has been arrested, beaten and incarcerated 12 times. Most recently, PSB and State officials forced Zhang to close the orphanage he had been running with his two sons.

Zhang and the orphans have continued to look for places of residence, but have been refused several times by landlords who have been threatened by officials not to lease to Zhang.

To voice your concern over the injustices Pastor Zhang has been forced to endure please contact:

The Office of PSB of Shuangyushu, Haidian District
Tel: +86-10-62561316

Chinese Embassy in Washington DC
Address: 2201 Wisconsin Avenue, N.W., Washington D.C. 20007
Tel: (202) 338-6688, (202)5889760
Fax: (202) 588-9760

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Nine House Church Christians in Henan detained for helping earthquake victims

Posted by radiofreechina on June 6, 2008

Two Bible teachers in Shandong sentenced to criminal detention

By Michael Ireland
Chief Correspondent, ASSIST News Service

HENAN, CHINA (ANS) — Officials from the Public Security Bureau (PSB) and Religious Affairs Bureau (RAB) disrupted the house church meeting and forcefully detained seven of the participants during a Sunday service at Taikang County, Henan Province, on June 1.

Christian aid relief truck
China Aid Association (CAA) said that police officials did not state the reason for the detention. During interrogation, police officials questioned the members as to who would be taking donations to the earthquake disaster area.

One woman and her child were released, however the other six remain in detention under a charge of sending money to a disaster area in the name of a house church. Both PSB and RAB officials have claimed that they would not release those detained until each paid a 1,000Yuan fine.

China Aid has also learned that, on May 28, two Christians in Hua county, Henan province were detained under the charge of religious inciting on obstruction to earthquake relief work. One was released on June 2 after paying a 500Yuan penalty and gifts worth more than 4,000Yuan value to PSB officers. Another one is said to be released on June 3.

In further progress of the case reported on May 27, concerning the attack on a house church seminary in Weifang city, Shandong province.

Principal Lu Zhaojun and teacher Zhang Yage as well as teacher Jin Xiuxiang were released on May 28 after CAA’s report of the case. However, when Lu and teacher Jin Xiu Xiang returned to the PSB office at 8am in the morning of June 2 inquiring about the official documents of confiscated goods, including a bank card worth 300,000 Yuan and a mini van, they were re-detained and sentenced to one month criminal detention for allegedly committing an illegal business operation.

The seminary’s items including Bibles and other Christian literature, the mini-van and the 300,000Yuan bankcard have not been returned.

CAA says that in recent years, the Chinese government has used the charge of “illegal business operation” against those house church believers who either managed bookstores or printed Bibles.

“The House Churches deserve the right to do charitable work such as providing relief to earthquake victims,” said CAA President Bob Fu. “We urge the Henan government to change its backward mentality from discriminating against those who continue to do good deeds.”

To voice your concern please contact:
Chinese Embassy in Washington DC
Address: 2201 Wisconsin Avenue, N.W., Washington D.C. 20007
Tel: (202) 338-6688, (202)5889760
Fax: (202) 588-9760

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No Way to Tell if Plastinated Bodies Come from Executed Prisoners – Company Admits

Posted by radiofreechina on June 6, 2008

By Hilary White

NEW YORK, May 30, 2008 (LifeSiteNews.com) – The New York State Attorney General’s office has ordered the owners of a “plastinated” body display in New York to post signs at the entrance of the exhibit telling visitors that it is not possible to confirm whether the bodies displayed were those of executed Chinese prisoners who may have been victims of torture.

The order came last Thursday after the company, Premier Exhibitions, admitted it had no way of knowing the exact origin of the bodies, all of which were obtained in China, a country that executes more of its citizens than any other nation. Under the terms of the settlement, the New York Times reports, the exhibitors cannot obtain new bodies without documentation proving the individual’s identity, cause of death and consent for the body to be displayed. The company has put aside $50,000 for refunds to visitors who have seen the display.

“Respect for the dead and respect for the public requires that Premier do more than simply assure us that there is no reason for concern,” Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo said. “This settlement is a start.”

Throughout the controversy, Premier insisted that the bodies were “unclaimed” deceased, obtained lawfully through Dalian Medical University Plastination Company in northern China. Human rights experts in Chinese prison systems, however, were adamant that the status of being “unclaimed” meant that at least some of them had been prisoners.

Since 1995, exhibitions of preserved and partly dissected human bodies have been shown in public venues around the US, Canada and Europe. The shows have been wildly successful, earning millions for the owners, but serious questions are increasingly being raised as to the origins of the bodies and more broadly, the ethics of the idea as a whole.

Two sets of displays of plastinated bodies, Body Worlds, started by the inventor of the process, Dr. Gunter von Hagens, and Bodies…The Exhibit by Premier, a rival company, are travelling the world and are currently being shown in Manchester and Cincinnati respectively, as well as in New York.

Dr. von Hagens has opened his procedures up to scrutiny and has offered to show public health authorities in California documentation showing the donors of his bodies gave their consent. Von Hagens told ABC news that he had stopped using bodies from China because they may have been those of executed prisoners. He said that when he had discovered signs on some of the bodies that indicated execution, he had them cremated. “There is now no way for me any more to work with specimens in China,” he said.

Even so, California legislators, as well as some US Congressmen are putting forward legislation requiring such exhibits to produce full documentation proving consent for all plastinated human remains brought into and shown in the United States. In addition, Congressman Todd Akin of Missouri has introduced federal legislation that would prohibit the import of any plastinated human remains into the US.

The move follows allegations by human rights activist Harry Wu, a Catholic who spent 19 years in Chinese labour camps for opposing the communist regime. Wu said that the bodies used by the Premier display came from executed and tortured Chinese prisoners. Wu established the Laogai Research Foundation in 1992 to gather information and spread public awareness on the Chinese Laogai, or prison system, the execution of prisoners, forced abortions and persecution of religious and minority groups.

Ethical questions surrounding the plastination and display of human remains, however, are not limited to those of consent. In an email to LifeSiteNews, Dr. von Hagens’ Director of Communications, Gail Hamburg, expounded on the ethics of the BODY WORKS displays and referred to the “long history in Catholicism of preserving and praying to the remains of saints” such as Saint Catherine Labore, “enshrined for all to see at Rue de Bac, Paris”, and St. Francis Xavier, whose body “is on display in Goa, India.

Gomez wrote that the display “invites contemplation about death, consciousness, and soul through the post mortal body, and provokes philosophical and religious self recognition”.

But Christian theologians and some Jewish authorities are saying that the displays are inherently offensive to human dignity. While Catholic teaching does not object to the use of cadavers for legitimate scientific or medical research, it insists that the sacredness of human life translates to the dignity of the body, even in death. To Catholics, the body is “a temple of the Holy Spirit,” a place where God Himself dwells, and will be raised up from death and glorified on the last day.

It is not only Christians who object. Orthodox Rabbi Yitzchok Adlerstein, an advisor to Body Worlds, said, “Jews should be aware that this is a fundamentally un-Jewish way of treating bodies.”

“We view the body as an instrument that brought holiness to the world, since the body is the vehicle that enables the soul to do its job. Every part of Jewish funeral practice stresses that there is this element of holiness [in the body]. We view holiness as something that human beings can and do create, and it leaves lasting effects. Therefore, the notion that the body is something that can be disposed of at will as long as you have the consent of the deceased is foreign and repugnant to Judaism.”

“Just as you can’t take sefer Torah [Torah scroll] and use it as wallpaper for a synagogue, you can’t take a body and cut it up and put it on display,” he said.

The Body Worlds exhibit will continue at the Museum of Science and Industry in Manchester until June 29. The Bodies…the Exhibit display continues at the Cincinnati Museum Center at Union Terminal until September 1.

See related LifeSiteNews report:

Plastinated Body Display “Objectifies” People Edmonton Bishops Warn
http://www.lifesitenews.com/ldn/2008/may/08052705.html

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