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Chinese officials pressure Christians to confess participation in 'evil cult' activities

(Reuters/Thomas Peter)Believers attend a service at the unofficial catholic church in Majhuang village, Hebei Province, China, December 11, 2016. Picture taken December 11, 2016.

Chinese officials have allegedly forced Christians incarcerated in China's southern Guangdong province to confess that they had participated in "evil cult" activities.

According to China Aid, authorities arrested a Christian man named Ruan Haonan and took him to the police station on June 12. Ruan, a member of Fengle Church who hosts Christian gatherings in his home, was reportedly interrogated and forced by the officials to confess to participating in cult activities. When he refused, he was detained and transferred to a detention center.

One June 13, Ruan was allegedly coerced by the officials to sign a transcript of the interrogation.

A pastor of Fengle Church identified only by his surname Li said the authorities ransacked Ruan's house and confiscated several Bibles when they searched the home on June 12 at around 4 p.m.

Later that night, the authorities also took Ruan's pregnant wife, Luo Caiyan, from their home. She was soon released when Ruan was transferred to the detention center, but the authorities refused to provide legal documents to her family members.

Luo's sister and Li's wife were also interrogated and were forced so sign a document saying they had participated in a cult in order to be released.

The charge of participation in an "evil cult" has often been levied against Christians for their church activities.

Last year, a Christian from Hunan province was criminally detained for "using a cult to disrupt law enforcement."

Tu Yan, who operates a hotel in Dali, Yunnan, was accused of belonging to the Three Grades of Servants, a Christian sect that has been labeled by the Chinese government as cultic. However, Tu had insisted that she had never participated in a cult and that she has no affiliation with the said Christian sect.

"They are saying that she's a Three Teams of Servants member, but naturally Tu Yan denies this," Tu's lawyer, Ren Quanniu, told Radio Free Asia in February.

"The state security police were insistent that she be prosecuted on these charges on the basis that she is party of the Three Teams of Servants, which is designated an evil cult," he added.

Tu's sister, Tu Kui, noted that some of the Christians who were detained in Yunnan on similar charges have already been released. She said she believes her sister being used as an example to pressure other house churches to register with the government's Three-Self Patriotic Association.

Christianity has been regarded by the administration of President Xi Jinping as a dangerous foreign import, with some officials warning against the "infiltration of Western hostile forces" through religion.

About 23 million of China's 68 million Protestants worship in state-affiliated churches, while 5.7 million of the country's 9 million Catholics belong to state-sponsored organizations.

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