HONG KONG—A pastor at an unofficial Protestant church banned from holding indoor meetings by authorities in Shanghai said she would seek compensation for mistreatment by police, as hundreds of the church's followers held an open-air service in one of the city's parks.
Just one week after Shanghai police detained six pastors and organizers of the city's popular but unregistered Wanbang church for several hours, several hundred worshipers gathered Sunday in the city's Minhang Sports Park for an open-air meeting.
"Today we held an open-air service in Minhang Sports Park," the group's leader, Pastor Ren, said.
"It wasn't only prayers. We also held a meeting with preaching. Around 700-800 people were there."
"The police were standing around the edges. There were about 200-300 of them today, the ones wearing uniform. They were uniformed security guards."
Meanwhile, Wanbang deputy pastor Liu Quanqin said she was mistreated during her detention by officers from Shanghai's Zhuanqiao police station, and had written to demand compensation and an official apology.
"I was praying alone at the hotel at 6:10 p.m., and reading from scripture, and I heard sounds nearby—they were checking all the rooms," she said.
"They knocked on my door and then they used tried to use a key to open the door. It was double-locked, so they just forced it open."
She said police hadn't shown any identification during the detention, then locked her in a room and not allowed her to use the toilet.
"They left me in there for 15 hours," Liu said.
"I asked to go to the bathroom but they wouldn't let me. I asked for some water but they wouldn't give it to me. I was hungry and I asked them for food but they wouldn't let me eat."
Liu said she wrote a complaint letter after she saw a list of rules on the wall of the police station stipulating that police must give food and water to detainees.
She said she was taken to a courtroom but there was no hearing.
Instead, she was pushed, pinched, sworn at, and had her skirt lifted up for "inspection."
She said she had photographic evidence of blood-blisters where she had been pinched.
"The government wants me to stop my activities with the Wanbang church," Liu said. "They say it's an illegal organization."
"I have written an official complaint letter," she said. "I will win redress for this."
Wanbang deputy pastor Cui said it was unclear whether the church would be allowed to move back into its old premises after being expelled by the authorities earlier this month.
"We will have to talk to them about that," he said. "I don't know [if we can go back]. We haven't tried it."
"On the whole, the authorities have been fairly approving of us. They know we are all good people, and pretty trustworthy. The only problem is that we aren't legal [officially approved as a church]. That is where the flashpoint for conflict lies."
Meanwhile, in the southern province of Henan, the leader of China's Association of House Churches, Pastor Zhang Mingxuan, said police had broken up a prayer meeting he tried to hold on Sunday, attended by around 30 people.
"House" churches, which operate without official registration documents and without the involvement of the local religious affairs bureaus, come in for surveillance and repeated raids, especially in more rural areas of the country, according to overseas rights groups.
Officially an atheist country, China nonetheless has an army of officials whose job is to watch over faith-based activities, which have spread rapidly in the wake of massive social change and economic uncertainty since economic reforms began 30 years ago.
Party officials are put in charge of Catholics, Buddhists, Taoists, Muslims, and Protestants.
Judaism isn't recognized, and worship in unapproved temples, churches, or mosques is against the law.
In its most recent report on human rights in China, the U.S. State Department said freedom of religion is permitted to varying degrees around China.
Original reporting in Mandarin by Qiao Long. Mandarin service director: Jennifer Chou. Translated and written for the Web in English by Luisetta Mudie. Edited by Sarah Jackson-Han.