HONG KONG—Authorities in the eastern Chinese province of Shandong are holding more than 70 people following a raid on a Bible study meeting of house church pastors involving more than 270 people.
Police burst in on the Dec. 7 meeting in the apparent belief that the participants were engaged in proselytizing for the outlawed Falun Gong spiritual movement, according to those detained at the meeting in Linyi city.
“When the police burst into the room, there wasn’t any reaction at all from any of us,” one man released from detention Sunday told RFA’s Cantonese service.
It is unlikely that they would be wearing manacles. As for when they will be released, I really don’t know. It depends on circumstances.
“They divided us into pairs and handcuffed us all together with our partner and marched us off to the police station for questioning. Some members of the congregation were beaten during our detention, during questioning. Others were frequently subjected to mental torture,” he said.
Each person was told they had to pay 300 yuan for their living expenses during their 15-day detention period. The police then refused to give back any of the money when many of the detainees were released after 2-3 days, he said.
The 270 attendees had gathered as part of a fast to honor Jesus’ suffering, taking advantage of the lack of agricultural work to be done in winter, according to another participant, identified only as Pastor Li.
Li said the police acted like bandits, confiscating two computers, videotapes and a video recorder, a television, and some copies of the Bible.
“At about 1 p.m., police officers from a dozen or so different villages and townships burst into the room.”
They had made arrangements to detain all of us. Each police station held 20-30 people. We were detained for three days and three nights. Some of us have now been released, but some have been transferred to a detention center—more than 70 people, in all.
Another participant told RFA’s Mandarin service that the raid was well organized. “They had made arrangements to detain all of us. Each police station held 20-30 people. We were detained for three days and three nights. Some of us have now been released, but some have been transferred to a detention center—more than 70 people, in all.”
Pastor Zhang, who also attended, said the police appeared to have acted on the basis of allegations that the group were Falun Gong missionaries.
“They had got a warrant all in a hurry and then staged this raid on our church, arresting people with no rhyme or reason to it. They said we would have to register with the religious authorities before they would accept there is a religious reason for our meetings. We don’t want to register because if we are refused permission to meet, then we will have no religious freedom anywhere in mainland China.”
An employee who answered the phone at the Hedong district police station in Linyi confirmed that some church members were still being detained for illegal assembly.
When asked whether the detainees were wearing manacles or to answer questions about when they would be released, she said she didn’t know. “It is unlikely that they would be wearing manacles. As for when they will be released, I really don’t know. It depends on circumstances.”
Original reporting in Cantonese by Fung Yat-yiu and in Mandarin by Yan Ming. Cantonese service director: Shiny Li. Mandarin service director: Jennifer Chou. Translated and written for the Web in English by Luisetta Mudie. Edited by Sarah Jackson-Han.