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Christians sent to Chinese labour camps: report

ABC News Australia

Villagers in southern China's Guangxi province accused local police on Tuesday of arresting Bible owners and sentencing them to labour camps as part as a campaign to weed out "illegal religious organisations."

Written testimony supplied to AFP by villagers in Xilin county accused up to 40 policemen of descending on Christian villages in the middle of the night and ransacking homes in search of Bibles and other religious materials.

Official arrest documents also show that following their detention three people from Weishan and Tianbao villages were sentenced without trial to 18 months in a labor camp run by the Nanning Glass Factory in the provincial capital.

The three were taken away on the night of April 27, but it was only on September 26 that Xilin county police told villagers the three Bible owners, identified as Li Hualiang, Wu Zhengxin and Wu Xinhua, had been sent to the labor camp, one villager said.

After repeated efforts, relatives of the men were finally allowed to visit them on October 21.

"This is really astonishing. A person is not a cow or a horse," the villager said in his written testimony of the events.

"Even if they had committed some evil act, if they were to be executed, or if they were to be sentenced, wouldn't you have to inform their families?"

Police began suspecting illegal religious activities at the villages in the late 1990s and despite levying fines of up to 500 yuan per villager, renewed efforts to wipe out "illegal religious organisations" again this year.

Officials in Hebei, Jiangsu and Zhejiang provinces have told AFP that similar crackdowns implemented after the political transition to a new leadership led by President Hu Jintao was completed in March were also ongoing.

The Hong Kong-based Information Centre for Human Rights and Democracy said last week that the nationwide campaign to wipe out "illegal religious organisations" could affect up to 50 million Chinese Christians worship.
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