February 25, 2002
About 20 elderly Christians - including one aged 98 -face being made homeless under an eviction order due to be enforced today at a Beijing care home.
Police from Yangdan Township in Beijing's suburban Changping district raided a Christian meeting in a building housing the senior citizens on Friday.
About 60 participants at the gathering were held and repatriated to their home towns on Saturday. Township police also ordered the owner of the care home, Chen Zhongxing, to hand over the property within three days and pay a 50,000 yuan (HK$ 47,175) fine. His wife, Yang Guizhi, said the home - a village house with six rooms - was built by local Christians in 1999 to provide free care for about 20 elderly Christians with no relatives to support them. The residents are in their 80s and 90s.
"The police came and took away valuables such as radios. Now they give us three days to move these old people out from the courtyard. What are we to do with them?" Ms Chen said.
She denied police claims that the care home was used as an underground church. "It is an old-age home. The only time we held a meeting with Christians was last Friday. It was not a religious service, but simply a meeting by Christians from different places to testify God's love."
In order to justify their order to confiscate the house, the police even accused the elders of being Falun Gong practitioners, Ms Chen said.
She added that the elderly residents would have nowhere to go if they were forced out.
"They are so old and nobody takes care of them. We provide them accommodation and I cook for them every day. How can they be so cruel to old people? It is impossible for us to move out. We can just wait and pray now."
Local police declined to comment yesterday.
Township and village police are notorious for extorting funds from villagers and religious groups are particularly vulnerable to such abuses.
During a joint press conference with US President George W. Bush last week, President Jiang Zemin insisted that religious rights in China were protected as long as the believers abided by the law.
Frank Lu Siqing, of the Hong Kong-based Information Centre for Human Rights and Democracy, said: "The old-age home is targeted by the police now simply because they (the residents) are Christians."
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