Police seize Zhang Mingxuan, wife and co-pastor after leader agrees to BBC interview.
DUBLIN, August 7 (Compass Direct News) – Chinese police detained house church leader Zhang Mingxuan, along with his wife Xie Fenlang and co-pastor Wu Jiang He, at a police station in Hebei after a BBC journalist attempted to interview him on Monday (August 4).
International affairs journalist John Simpson phoned Zhang to request an interview, as required in a handbook given to journalists reporting on the Olympic Games in Beijing. Zhang agreed to the interview, but as Simpson traveled to meet him, police seized Zhang and his companions and moved them to a local police station.
When Zhang informed Simpson of their whereabouts using a cell phone, Simpson drove to the police station and shouted a few questions across the courtyard to Zhang, who was visible through an open window on the second floor of the building, as shown on BBC video footage.
Public Security Bureau (PSB) officials had banished Zhang and his wife from Beijing for the duration of the Games, fearing they would try to meet with visiting foreign officials. After forcing Zhang and Xie to leave their home and evicting them from several other temporary residences, police on July 18 entered a guesthouse where they were staying and drove them to Yanjiao in neighboring Hebei province.
Zhang and Xie then moved to another, more remote town to await the completion of the Games. (See “China Banishes Pastor from Beijing Prior to Games,” August 5.)
Protests to President
Zhang traveled as an itinerant evangelist throughout China before moving to Beijing in 1998. He is co-founder and president of the China House Church Alliance, established in April 2005 to defend the rights of house church Christians.
In 2005, U.S. President Bush invited Zhang to a meeting during an official visit to China. The meeting never took place, however, as officials detained Zhang before he could attend.
As president of the alliance, Zhang in November 2007 sent an open letter to President Hu Jintao, urging China to grant greater religious freedoms.
The letter, also signed by Zhang’s wife, read in part, “President Hu, are you aware that officials under you arrest, beat and drive away the Christians from their homes?”
Zhang also mentioned several detentions for his religious activities, including a 185-day imprisonment in 1986, shortly after he became a Christian, and numerous threats, beatings and arrests after he moved to Beijing. In 1999, PSB officials seized Zhang for preaching in a public place and confined him to a mental hospital for 13 days.
The letter described harassment, including threats to cut off water and electricity, and accusations that Zhang was illegally adopting orphans after he established an orphanage and school at Yanjiao.
In his conclusion, Zhang implored Hu to improve the rights of religious minorities, particularly Christians, for the social and moral benefit of China.
This June Zhang met with U.S. Rep. Frank Wolf and Rep. Christopher Smith during a visit to Beijing, but officials placed him under house arrest the following night, the South China Morning Post reported. Also in June, officials detained Zhang when he attempted to meet with Bastiann Belder, a rapporteur of the European Parliamentary Committee on Foreign Affairs.
Also this week, authorities arrested three Christian activists who were demonstrating in Tiananmen Square. The Rev. Pat Mahoney of the Christian Defense Coalition in Washington, D.C., Brandi Swindell of Generation Life in Boise, Idaho, and Michael McMonagle, national director of Generation Life, were taken into custody yesterday (August 6) after displaying a banner that read “Jesus Christ Is King” in both English and Chinese.
They were released soon after.
Report from Compass Direct News