TAuthorities in China have arrested more than 10 leaders of unregistered churches in Guangdong Province in the past few days. Meetings have been closed and believers arrested in Li Xi, Tian Wei, Fo Gang, Xiang Shan, Huadu, Ping Shan and Xin Hua. At least 10 leaders are being held and a number of other individuals are known to have been arrested as well. Amongst those held are Brother Kong and Brother Yung, whose mother was apprehended as a preliminary measure to his arrest. The arrests and closures are linked to the campaign of intimidation that has been waged in Huadu for the last seven months. Following their destruction of part of a property used for church meetings, the police arrested Pastor Li Dexian, the leader of the meetings, and several others on a number of occasions towards the end of last year. Pastor Li has now been arrested a total of fourteen times in the last seven months. He is presently at home, but is under surveillance. In the last few days the police have prevented access to the meeting place in Huadu by welding it up and placing iron bars to prevent entry. They arrested the owner of the home where the meetings have been held, but have now released her. Another leader, Brother Yiu was arrested with his wife on 8th May and held for two days. The police did not give them anything to eat during their detention, but believers were able to bring food which was passedon to them. Yiu had been working in an area where there is no official Three Self Church. This is significant as the source of the persecution is often the Religious Affairs Bureau, when there is competition posed to the official State controlled church. However in this case, there are clearly other factors at work. It is clear that the campaign of intimidation that has been waged over the last seven months has now reached a new level. Last month Li was tortured with his ankles and wrists chained to each other so that he was held in a continually stooped position for five days. He was not given any toilet facilities and therefore could eat nothing more than a few spoonfuls of rice per meal. During the detention he was warned that he would be subjected to a three year labour camp sentence if he did not abandon his religious activities. It appears that the Chinese authorities are now seeking to strike terror into the Christian leadership in the wider area to instil a climate of fear that will stop the religious work from continuing. CSWs Executive Director, Mervyn Thomas, responded to the news, saying: "These arrests are part of a downward turn in Chinas record on religious freedom. At a time when China is under close scrutiny, it is disturbing to see the authorities embarking on such an overt campaign of intimidation and persecution of peaceful religious believers. Such flagrant abuse of basic human rights must be viewed as a grave concern and as an obstacle to developing closer ties and trust between China and other nations."

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