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China -- Mixed Signals; Persecution of House Church Christians Taking Place Despite Some Positive Olympic Developments

Contact: Jerry Dykstra, Media Relations Director, Open Doors USA, 616-915-4117, jerryd@odusa.org


SANTA ANA, Calif., July 28 /Christian Newswire/ -- With the start of the Summer Olympics in Beijing only 12 days away (August 8), China has sent out mixed messages regarding basic human rights, including religious freedom, in the last week.


On the positive side, China is permitting:


  • Printing of 90,000 Gospel booklets and Bibles for Olympic athletes and visitors.


  • Places of worship to be set up inside the Olympic village to provide religious services to the athletes.


  • Set up of special protest zones in three public parks several miles from the main Olympic stadium. However, demonstrators would need to apply for permission in advance.


On the negative side, China has:


  • Relocated Zhang Mingxuan, a prominent Beijing-based pastor and founder of the Chinese House Church Alliance, and his ailing wife Xie Fenglanto, to Hebei Province's Yanjiao Township after a week of harassment. According to Hong Kong's The Sunday Post (July 20), the government was concerned that he might be a "destabilizing factor" during the Olympic Games.


  • Continued its crackdown on house churches. According to Mingxuan, 2008 is the most difficult year in his 20 years as a Christian. "The crackdown on underground churches so far this year is much more intense than the past few years put together because of the Olympic Games."


  • Re-arrested Shi Weihan for publishing Bibles and Christian literature. Shi ran a Christian bookstore, a printing press and travel agency. The bookstore is located near the Olympic Village.


According to Johnny Li, Open Doors International Minister-at-Large who has spent many years in China, it's not unusual for the Chinese government to send out mixed signals to the world.


"The Chinese government is concerned about any group disrupting their plans for being a 'perfect' Olympic host. House churches are among the groups drawing special attention. The same government that says it's okay for Olympic competitors and visitors to bring in and read their Bibles and provides places of worship in the Olympic village is cracking down on house church leaders and relocating and imprisoning some of them."


Li adds that perhaps the No. 1 question is what will the landscape look like for Christians after the Games wind up August 24 -- better or worse?


Open Doors is urging Christians in the United States to email Chinese Ambassador to the United States Zhou Whenzong to express their concern over the status of Weihan, including access to medical care and medicines, adequate clothing, visitation rights for his family and a fair and prompt trial. To send an email and for more information, go to www.OpenDoorsUSA.org


An estimated 100 million Christians worldwide suffer interrogation, arrest and even death for their faith in Christ, with millions more facing discrimination and alienation. Open Doors supports and strengthens believers in the world's most difficult areas through Bible and Christian literature distribution, leadership training and assistance, Christian community development, prayer and presence ministry and advocacy on behalf of suffering believers. To partner with Open Doors USA, call toll free at 888-5-BIBLE-5 (888-524-2535) or go to our Website at www.OpenDoorsUSA.org


For more information or to set up an interview, contact Jerry Dykstra at 616-915-4117 or email jerryd@odusa.org.