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Chinese Christians barred from meet

Beijing, Oct. 16: More than 100 Chinese Christians seeking to attend an international evangelical conference in South Africa have been barred from leaving the country, some in the group said, because their churches are not sanctioned by the state.

Organisers say that more than 4,000 Christians from around the world will discuss faith, poverty, the AIDS epidemic and other issues at the nine-day conference, which begins today in Cape Town. But members of the Chinese delegation said that they could get no farther than the passport control at international airports in China before officials confiscated their documents.

“They said it is illegal to attend this conference, and sent me home,” said Liu Guan, 36, a Protestant evangelical leader who tried to fly out of Capital International Airport in Beijing last Sunday. “The explanation was ‘for your own good’.”

China’s policy toward Christians is more relaxed now than a decade ago. Although only government-sanctioned churches are considered legal, millions of Chinese — some say tens of millions — worship in unregistered churches.

While believers often complain of harassment, officials in much of China turn a blind eye to the activities there. But Chinese house churches are one matter; global conferences are another.

The Chinese authorities said that the government intervened to prevent people from attending the conference because Cape Town organisers failed to honour China’s policy of domestic control over religious activities.

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