U.S. Agency Calls China to Allow Easter Worship

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The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom has called on China to end harassment and detentions of Christians this Holy Week and Easter Sunday.

Scott Flipse is the deputy director of the commission, which is an autonomous government board. He says unregistered churches like Beijing's Shouwang Church should be free to worship during Holy Week.

Chinese authorities turned out in force when the church tried to hold an outdoor service earlier this month. They arrested 169 members but later released most of them.

The unregistered Shouwang Church has urged followers to ignore warnings and to risk arrest by joining Easter services. Shouwang's pastor, Jin Tianming, and several other leaders were detained Saturday and later released into house arrest.

Flipse says China has forced the church out of facilities it has purchased and rented for worship. He says it's part of an ongoing crackdown against religious groups the government sees as a threat.

China's latest crackdown on dissent is its largest in years, with authorities apparently jittery amid a wave of pro-democracy uprisings in the Middle East. Online postings have urged mass "strolls" in Chinese cities.

Hong Kong-based Chinese Human Rights Defenders said more than 50 activists have been taken into police custody and many more placed under house arrest during the crackdown.

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