WASHINGTON, DC, May 19, 2004 -- The Center for Religious Freedom of Freedom House today urged U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell to protest China's responsibility for what is probably the world's largest single incident of religious repression now underway in the world. According to the Flushing, NY-based Committee for Investigation on Persecution of Religion in China (CIPRC), Chinese officials are waging an offensive begun last month to eradicate one of that country's most massive Christian house churches, one that--along with the Buddhist offshoot Falun Gong--is banned under the state's anti-cult laws. The church known as the Three Class Servants Church has attracted several million members throughout the country, though official records are not kept for security reasons. The crackdown on the Protestant house church started on April 17, 2004, when its founder and leader, 59-year-old Xu Shuangfu, was kidnapped by gun-wielding men in a police car while visiting congregation members in neighboring Haerbin, Heilongjian Province. It seems he is being virtually held for ransom by Heilongjian Public Security police, who demanded 3 million RMB from his goddaughter to solve the case. The kidnappers then called the goddaughter, threatening to kill the old manor chop off one of his fingers. Ms. Liu, a church member abducted along with Xu who managed to escape, said the pair were blindfolded and held at gunpoint in a police vehicle. Reportedly, she then was apprehended by the provincial Public Security police the next day and has not been seen nor heard from since. Rev. Xu Shuangfu, a native of Linglou Village in Henan Province, has devoted his life to evangelism and has been arrested and jailed many times. On April 26, more than 90 of Xu's co-workers and fellow believers in Haerbin were arrested, according to CIPRC. One church member, 28-year-old Gu Xianggao of Shandong Province, was reportedly tortured and beaten to death; his parents were offered hush money by the police and, when they refused it, the police incinerated Gu's body. Those detained had their homes ransacked and their belongings seized by police. Several church ministers were listed among those arrested: Yin Chuanhui, Fan Yuqin, Jiao Jianmin, and Lian Zhifu. The victimsfamilies are now being kept under strict surveillance and have been threatened with arrest when making inquiries about their loved ones.

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