China Releases 47 Christians Following Bush´s Visit

Accused of Illegal Prayer Gatherings

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BEIJING, FEB. 25, 2002 ( China released 47 Christians it detained for “gathering illegally” during President George W. Bush´s visit.

However, the BBC reported on Sunday that police ordered that their house church in Beijing be closed, members of the group said. The members vowed to defy the order.

A human rights group said that the Christians, some of whom are in their 80s and 90s, were mistreated during their detention.

About 70 officers from Beijing´s Public Security Bureau broke up the religious meeting on Thursday in the city´s Changping district. Bush had arrived in China´s capital shortly before.

The 47 Protestants were taken to various police stations, searched and had Bibles confiscated, according to the Hong Kong-based Information Center for Human Rights and Democracy. Some were released shortly after Bush left China on Friday, others were held until Saturday.

The information center claimed that the detainees were not allowed to drink water or go to the toilet while they were being held. Police told the group they had been arrested for gathering illegally, though they were also accused of belonging to a banned meditation sect. Yan Guizhi, a church member, told Agence France-Presse: “They said we´re Falun Gong. We´re not, we´re Christians.”

During his visit, Bush called for China to embrace freedom of worship, saying such tolerance “is not something to be feared but to be welcomed.”

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