China: Christians arrested, then freed, during Bush visit

 A group of 47 elderly Christians were detained for 'illegally gathering' and then freed during President Bush's visit to China. About 70 security officers broke up their religious meeting on Thursday. Members of the group - some in their 80s and 90s, were taken to various police stations, searched and had Bibles confiscated, according to the Hong Kong-based Information Centre for Human Rights and Democracy. Some were released shortly after Bush left China on Friday, others were held until Saturday. Police ordered that their house church in Beijing will remain closed. The information centre claimed that the detainees were not allowed to drink water or go to the toilet while they were being held. A spokesman said the building used as a church was also a home for the elderly who did not have children to look after them. He said: "Our senior nursing home is our church. We have no other place to worship." Ten people live in the home, which authorities said operated without a licence. Police imposed a 50,000 yuan ($6,000) fine. The information centre said the home was a non-profit charitable organisation that did not require a licence. The spokesman said: "The home is used by local Christians for nightly services because there are no official or unofficial churches nearby. We're too afraid to meet for our regular services now," he said. During his visit to China, which is part of a six day tour of Asia, Bush raised the subject of religion. He told Chinese President Jiang Zemin: "I hope that the government of Beijing ... honours the request of the Papal Nuncio to at least have dialogue about the bishops that are interned in China". He said: "In my last visit with President Jiang, I shared with him my faith. I talked to him in very personal terms about my Christian beliefs ... I would hope that he, as a president of a great nation, would understand the important role of religion in an individual's life".

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