By China Change, published: February 12, 2014
On January 24, 2014, when all eyes were on the New Citizens Movement trials, in Tongzhou District, Beijing (北京通州区), police detained more than a dozen house church Christians and, two days later on January 26, 12 of them were announced to have been criminally detained. In recent days, rights lawyers have become involved in representing their case.
On the afternoon of Friday, January 24, when Xu Yonghai (徐永海), the elder of the Beijing house church “Holy Love Fellowship” (圣爱团契) and 17 or 18 others were studying the Bible in the home of one of their members, the police descended on them claiming that they had received a “report about a gathering of many people.” The police took all but four old or sick ones to the local police station without showing any legal document.
In the police station, each was interrogated two to three times. Mr. Xu Yonghai was released later but, in the morning of January 26, police officer took him away again.
On the same day, the police announced the criminal detention of Xu Yong hai (徐永海), Yang Jing (杨靖), Yu Yanhua (于艳华), Xu Caihong (徐彩虹), Lu Dongli (吕动力), Ju Xiaoling (居小玲), Zhang Haiyan (张海彦), Wang Su’e (王素娥), Yang Min (杨敏), Kang Suping (康素萍), Yang Qiuyu (杨秋雨), and Wang Chunyan (王春艳) for alleged illegal assembly, parade and demonstration. They are currently detained in the Beijing Municipal First Detention Center.
On February 11, Beijing-based human rights lawyer Liang Xiaojun (梁小军) met with Mr. Xu Yonghai at the detention center.
According to the lawyer, for 17 days since his detention, Mr. Xu Yonghai has been fasting and praying, but he seemed to be in good spirits and he still wore his contagious smile as ever. Mr. Xu thanked everyone for their concern and regretted the detention of so many of his church brothers and sisters.
Mr. Xu Yonghai’s wife told the Chinese rights defense network weiquanwang (维权网) that, the family has not received any legal document although Mr. Xu has been criminally detained for over two weeks already.
Just days before their detention, when the house church congregated in the same home for a Bible study session, an official from Tongzhou District Civil Affairs Bureau by the name Fu Haibing (付海兵) came and told the congregation that “you are illegal because you have not registered.”
Mr. Xu Yonghai told weiquanwang that the official then read Article 12 of the Regulations on Religious Affairs to the group: “Collective religious activities of religious citizens shall, in general, be held at registered sites for religious activities (i.e., Buddhist monasteries, Taoist temples, mosques, churches and other fixed premises for religious activities), organized by the sites for religious activities or religious bodies, and presided over by religious personnel or other persons who are qualified under the prescriptions of the religion concerned, and the process of such activities shall be in compliance with religious doctrines and canons.”
Having read Article 12, the official went on to say, “Any group with more than two or three people would constitute a collective body. Since you have not registered, your assembly here is illegal.”
According to Mr. Xu, the official also said, “We have the enforcement authority. We can ban an illegal church in accordance with the law. And when we do, we can confiscate Bibles and other religious publications.”
Mr. Xu Yonghai told weiquanwang that the Holy Love Fellowship began in 1989 and has existed for nearly 25 years, and that although he was put in jail twice for his belief, the Civil Affairs office has never asked them to register, nor has the group ever been identified as being illegal.
More rights lawyers are getting involved in representing these house church detainees.
Mr. Xu Yonghai graduated from Beijing Medical College in 1984, worked in several hospitals in Beijing, and became a Christian in 1989. In 1995, Xu was given two years of reeducation-through-labor for signing an appeal for democracy and rule of law to commemorate the 6th anniversary of Tian’anmen movement. In 2003, he was sentenced to two years in jail for helping a persecuted house church in the northeastern city of Anshan (辽宁鞍山). Since his release in 2006, he has often been subjected to house arrest and surveillance, and has not been able to resume his medical profession.
Xu Yonghai’s blog: http://blog.boxun.com/hero/xuyonghai/