House church leader Hua Huiqi hoped to attend service with President Bush.
DUBLIN, August 11 (Compass Direct News) – Security agents yesterday seized Christian activist and house church pastor Hua Huiqi on his way to a service at the government-approved Kuanjie Protestant Church in Beijing, where U.S. President George Bush was scheduled to appear.
Bush later attended the service before meeting with Chinese President Hu Jintao to discuss human rights concerns, including religious freedom.
“I told him not to go because it’s during the Olympic Games, and this period is sensitive,” Hua’s brother Hua Huilin told The Associated Press in a telephone interview. AP reporters said the line was disconnected three times during the conversation, suggesting that authorities were monitoring the phone call.
When Hua insisted on going, however, his brother agreed to travel with him.
As the men cycled towards the church, two black cars approached them. Police seized both men and took them away in separate cars, detaining them in the courtyard of the Hong Kong New World Development Ltd. Co., according to the China Aid Association (CAA). But around noon, police guards relaxed for a moment and activist Hua managed to escape. Police released his brother later that afternoon.
According to the AP report, authorities have arrested and beaten Hua several times in recent years because of his religious activities. Hua also gained a reputation as an activist when he fought against a development project that led to the demolition of his home in 2001.
Hua was baptized at the Kuanjie church 10 years ago but has since been a member of a Beijing house church.
In recent months, as part of a “clean-up” operation in Beijing, authorities forced him to attend services at the Kuanjie church instead. The church is registered with China’s Three Self Patriotic Movement, a government body assigned to oversee Protestant churches throughout the country.
Since registration places strict controls on the appointment of clergy, sermon content and evangelism, many Chinese believers – such as Hua – prefer to worship in unregistered house churches.
As the Games drew closer and Bush was scheduled to attend a service at the Kuanjie church, authorities banned Hua and his family from attending.
According to CAA, most people present at the church on Sunday were “security people, political workers and people trained … to pose as believers.” One church member who spoke to CAA complained, “No one is allowed to enter the church.”
Bush on Freedom Concerns
At a press conference in Bangkok, Thailand just prior to his arrival in Beijing, Bush declared that, “America stands in firm opposition to China’s detention of political dissidents, human rights advocates and religious activists,” The Australian reported on Friday (August 8).
He added, “Ultimately, only China can decide what course it will follow.”
After attending the service at Kuanjie, Bush posed for photos on the front steps of the church and told reporters that no country should “fear the influence” of religious freedom, AP reported.
Bush later met with Chinese president Hu Jintao and voiced his concerns about human rights issues, including the jailing of religious activists.
Report from Compass Direct News