China (MNN) ― Roughly 30 major house church leaders were arrested when they met with four American Christians in Xinjiang Province in western China.
Voice of the Martyrs' Todd Nettleton confirmed the China Aid Association report and gave us this update: "Some of the Chinese have already been released: eight of them. Six of them have been given criminal detention for 30 days. The four Americans, at last report, are being held at a hotel. We're still waiting to see what's going to happen with them. My guess is that they will be put on a plane for home and told not to return."
The arrested Americans include a senior pastor and an associate pastor of an American church. There are reports that the U.S. Embassy is intervening for this case.
Nettleton says because this took place in a Muslim region of China, officials are likely to cover the arrests by indicating they were concerned about this meeting being used for terrorism.
The six accused pastors, Xinglan Zhao, Xiurong Huang, Tianlu Yang, Chaoyi Wang, Cuiling Li, and Sijun He, are facing one to three years re-education through labor. A couple of years ago, the group was detained for organizing house church activities.
Nettleton says this crackdown pattern may continue in the run up to the Beijing Olympics. He says they're not backing down in support of the church, however. "Pray for courage and encouragement. When you see a church leader get arrested, when you think about the possibility of three years in very difficult conditions in a labor camp, I think it would be easy to get discouraged. I think we can pray against that and pray for encouragement."
These are only a few of the thousands of Christians in China risking their freedom and lives whose only crime is faith in Jesus Christ. Thankfully, the government has been responsive at times to international pressure. However, this responsiveness is sporadic, and too frequently Western governments have been more obsessed with gaining access into the huge Chinese market than protecting basic human rights for the people.