A Christian house church leader in China and his mother are facing a criminal prosecution that appears to be part of that government's campaign to eliminate messages that are contrary to the official publicity releases as the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing approach.
According to reports from Voice of the Martyrs, a Christian organization that works in support of persecuted Christians around the world, house church leader Hua Huiqi has been formally arrested and his 76-year-old mother arrested a second time for the offense of walking near a construction site for a hotel being built in preparation for the Olympics.
VOM said Hua was arrested by the Beijing Public Security Bureau Chaoyang Branch and his mother arrested by Beijing Security Bureau Chongwen Branch. They had been injured in January when seven police officers attacked them while they were walking near the hotel construction site in Beijing.
"We are deeply concerned about Brother Hua and his elderly, ill mother. They are faithful Christians seeking only to serve the Lord in accordance with their conscience," said Todd Nettleton, a spokesman for Voice of the Martyrs.
"We encourage Christians around the world to pray for their family, and we strongly urge the Chinese government to release them immediately," he said.
China Aid Association officials told VOM that Hua has been very active in trying to help persecuted Christians and others who are oppressed by local officials who travel to Beijing trying to obtain justice from the central government.
He and his mother were attacked, and while on the ground, kicked. Then later they were taken to a police station for questioning, according to reports. "When Hua asked the police to release his sick mother and explain the legal ground for the detention, he was beaten repeatedly. While the temperature in Beijing was in the 20s, cold water was poured on him. He was later taken to a detention center," the organization said.
"The Chinese government says they ensure freedom of religion, but this case clearly shows the truth," Nettleton said. Police from the Olympic Sports Stadium Police Station also threatened to arrest Hua's brother, officials reported.
Authorities in China told CAA that Hua was under criminal detention on the charge of "intervening public affair," essentially damaging public and private property at the construction site.
"The charge against Brother Hua is totally baseless and it's clearly ?revenge to Hua's Christian ministry to the oppressed," said Bob Fu, who works with Hua. "Hua's case should be seen as a litmus test on whether China is sincere to improve its worsening human rights record before the 2008 Beijing Olympics."
Co-workers told CAA that they believe the aggressive actions in the arrest of Hua and his mother could be because of instructions from high government officials to send a message to those who present a message during the Olympics that does not fit the government's formal statements.
CAA said letters of concern can be sent to: Premier Wen Jiabao, PRC, PO Box 1741, The State Council, Beijing, PRC (zip code 100017). The telephone contact is: +86-10-66012399.
"The detention of innocent peaceful Christians like Mr. Hua and his mom is certainly contradictory to the Chinese government's human rights commitment for 2008 Beijing Olympics," said Fu.
A number of human rights organizations – both faith-based and secular – have raised concerns about China's human rights record, and its preparations for the 2008 Games, which were awarded to Beijing in a vote by the International Olympic Committee in 2001.
Human Rights Watch said Chinese police have cracked down on "subversive Internet users" who have been censored in their efforts to post information that contradicts the government's public relations statements.
"Chinese authorities ?reinforced repression against Internet users, Tibetans, members of the Falun Gong spiritual movement, foreign scholars, the Muslim Uigur minority, democrats, foreign journalists and delinquents, all 'in the name of the Chinese Olympics,'" the organization said.
There are estimates several thousand Chinese are executed each year for their "crimes." WND recently reported on an assessment of China's human rights situation that alleges the government keeps members of the Falun Gong religious sect in detention camps, and then executes them as their organs are needed for that nation's transplant industry.
Also, at the current time, hundreds of thousands of Chinese are being evicted from their homes just so that the redevelopment projects in preparation for the Games can continue, the HRC said.
"The IOC has ?invested the Chinese regime with a task it will carry out zealously: host safe Olympics. This means arrests of dissidents, social 'cleansing,' and censorship against 'critical' elements?" the group said.
"The Olympic movement was discredited in 1936, when it allowed the Nazis to make the Games a spectacle to glorify the Third Reich. In 1980, in Moscow, the IOC suffered a terrible defeat when more than 50 countries boycotted the Olympics?" the group said. The 2008 Games should not be allowed to advance the restrictions China imposes, it said.
VOM is a non-profit, interdenominational ministry working worldwide to help Christians who are persecuted for their faith, and to educate the world about that persecution. Its headquarters are in Bartlesville, Okla., and it has 30 affiliated international offices.
It was launched by the late Richard and Sabina Wurmbrand, who started smuggling Russian Gospels into Russia in 1947, just months before Richard was abducted and imprisoned in Romania where he was tortured for his refusal to recant Christianity.
He eventually was released in 1964 and the next year he testified about the persecution of Christians before the U.S. Senate's Internal Security Subcommittee, stripping to the waist to show the deep torture wound scars on his body.
The group that later was renamed The Voice of the Martyrs was organized in 1967, when his book, "Tortured for Christ," was released.