- The Washington Times - Friday, November 12, 2004

SHANGHAI — State security agents arrested a prominent member of the unofficial Chinese Protestant Church as part of a renewed crackdown on religious activities outside Communist Party control, an overseas activist group reported yesterday.

Cai Zhuohua, minister to six unofficial congregations, was bundled into a van by three plainclothes agents while waiting at a bus stop in Beijing two months ago, said the China Aid Association, which is based in Texas.

Mr. Cai’s wife — Xiao Yunfei — was arrested Sept. 27 along with her brother, Xiao Gaowen, and sister-in-law, Hu Jinyun, after the three went into hiding in the central province of Hunan, the report said.

It wasn’t clear why news of the arrest was delayed, although China rarely reports such matters and information about the unofficial church can be difficult to obtain even within China.

The association cited prosecutors involved in the case as saying it was part of a broader crackdown on unauthorized religious activity and publications that began in June.

China’s officially atheistic government allows worship only in the communist-controlled Protestant Church, which claims more than 10 million followers.

However, as many as 50 million Christians are believed to worship in unofficial Protestant congregations, which operate with varying amounts of freedom throughout China. While many hold services openly in some parts of the country, in other regions, particularly the politically sensitive capital of Beijing, they are routinely harassed and their leaders arrested.

The China Aid Association relies on an independent network of Christians in China and overseas for information about developments in the underground church. It said Mr. Cai and the others were being held at the Qinghe detention center in Beijing. The center’s phone number is unlisted.

Calls to public numbers for Beijing’s State Security Bureau rang unanswered and officials at Beijing’s No. 1 Intermediate Court said they were not authorized to release any information.

The association said Mr. Cai’s case drew special attention from authorities after the discovery of 200,000 Bibles and other Christian literature in a warehouse under his control, the origins of which were unknown.

The official church is the only authorized publisher of Bibles in China, which are produced in strictly controlled numbers and forbidden to be sold in ordinary bookstores.

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