Buddhist leader and followers detained, homes searched

By: Christian Solidarity Worldwide

Chinese Buddhist leader Wu Zeheng (also known as Shi Xingwu) and approximately 18 of his followers remain in detention after police searched residences at Yinshi Yayuan complex in Zhuhai City, Guangdong Province, on 29 July, according to reports from Wu’s followers.

Around one hundred police officers, some armed, entered the complex at 11pm and searched the homes of Wu and several of his followers. A Facebook page about the incident lists several testimonies from residents, including children. One witness claims that Wu’s 71-year-old mother was injured while she tried to protect him. Others report that children as young as nine were taken to the police station that night and released several hours later. In total, over 40 people were arrested. Companies owned by Wu’s followers in Shenzhen and Shanghai were also searched and one was forced to close. Followers continued to be harassed from 30-31 July.

In almost all cases, witnesses report being confused as to why their residences were being searched. One 17-year-old witness said that the police had told his family they were suspected of drug use, which he denies. Police have informed Wu’s followers that most of those still in detention will be detained for 30 days. No justification was given for this period of detention and the reports do not mention any legal charges against the detainees. Although no clear reason has been given for either the searches or the detention of Wu and his followers, some note that Wu’s group had recently expanded their charity work and was growing in number.

Wu Zeheng is a prominent Buddhist leader sentenced to 11 years in prison in 1999 for “economic crimes” after he wrote a letter to the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China and State Council denouncing human rights violations and calling for reform. Since his release from prison on 28 February 2010, Wu Zeheng has been subjected to close surveillance by the Chinese authorities. In 2011, on the eve of an important Buddhist holiday, Wu was beaten, threatened and detained on “suspicion of intending to organize an illegal assembly”, and in 2013 he was ordered to pay a fine of 2.5 million yuan in relation to his conviction for “economic crimes”, three years after he completed his ten-year prison sentence.

CSW’s Chief Executive, Mervyn Thomas, said: “CSW is deeply concerned about reports that police have detained Buddhist leader Wu Zeheng and his followers. We are particularly alarmed at witnesses’ account of the rough and threatening manner in which police conducted searches. We note that Christians in Zhejiang have also recently reported acts of violence by police against those attempting to prevent crosses being removed from their churches. CSW calls on the Chinese government to hold the police officers responsible for these actions to account, and to guarantee the right to freedom of religion and belief for people of all faiths in China”.

For More Information: http://dynamic.csw.org.uk/article.asp?t=press&id=1756