Christians Arrested for Helping Sichuan Earthquake Victims

In Asia, Governments & Politics, News Headlines

In a bizarre turn of the situation, two Chinese Christians and relief helpers of the Sichuan earthquake were arrested and tried for what officials called ‘disturbing the peace and endangering the health of others.”

U.S.-based ChinaAid Association (CAA) reported Friday that it received the official statement on the administrative proceddings for the trial of Ms Wei Sanhong and Mr Wu Han on 26 August. They were arrested by Nanbu County Public Security Bureau in Sichuan on 28 June. Officially detained for “acting under the guise of religion” and “disturbing the society and impairing others’ health,” it stated.

The report said that Ms Wei and Mr. Wu were visiting the Huaguan Town house church from their home in Zheijiang, as members of the extended congregation. That evening, local police broke into the building without a warrant, illegally searched and confiscated church property, and seized Ms. Wei and Mr. Wu. They were then interrogated at the police station, without legal notification to their families in Zheijiang.

On 12 May 2008, a deadly 8.0 on the Ritcher scale magnitute earthquake hit Sichuan province of China, at least 68,000 people were killed. Many, including Christians volunteered to help the victims in the aftermath of the earthquake. CAA said Wei and Wu were among several members of the Huaguan Town church who had previously worked to provide disaster relief to victims of the Sichuan Earthquake.

According to CAA, in the aftermath of the disaster, relief workers helped local victims to access medical care, rebuild homes, and receive counseling for grief, mental illness, and alcoholism related to depression.

CAA said on October 16, 2008, the Fuhu Village Party Committee and local Government in Nanbu County even commended the Huaguan Town Church’s relief efforts in the community. The church had been meeting peacefully in Nanbu County since it was founded in 2006, and merged with Zheijiang members in 2008, it stated.

Litigation lawyer for the plaintiffs Wu Chenglian called the Nanbu County Public Security Bureau’s charge “based on wrong facts and flimsy evidence.” In her Statement on the Administrative Proceedings for the case, Attorney Wu presented to the court her defense of plaintiffs Wei and Wu, exposing the Nanbu County PSB’s violations by citing the Chinese Constitution:

“In accordance with Article 36 in Constitutions of the PRC, ‘the citizens of the People’s Republic of China enjoy freedom of religious belief. No state organ, public organization or individual may compel
citizens to believe in, or not to believe in, any religion; nor may they discriminate against citizens who believe in, or do not believe in, any religion.’”

According to CAA, attorney Wu argued further that Nanbu Public Security Bureau misapplied “The Law of Punishment in Respect to Management of Public Security” to the plaintiff-citing its lack of expert knowledge on the religious proceedings, and providing evidence of Huaguan Town churches peaceful existence and contributions to the Nanbu County community.

She further upheld the rights of house churches to meet without official registration, noting that Article 12 of the Regulations on Religious Affairs “is a general regulation, and not mandatory,” according to
Chinese law.

The families are currently awaiting the verdict for Wei Sanhong and Wu Han’s trial held in Nanbu County.

CAA has urged Christians to pray that the local officials will be held accountable for their violations of Chinese law, and that justice will be served for these disaster-relief workers.

There are many Christians who are being detained for their faith in China. Open Doors 2009 World Watch List has ranked China at no. 12 among 50 nations that are the worst persecutors of Christians under ‘severe limitations’ category along with countries like Myanmar (Burma), India, Pakistan, and others.

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