Detained Chinese pastor released but placed under surveillance

One of the church cross demolitions in Zhejiang, against which Gu Yuese protested.China Aid

A Chinese pastor who was detained after he opposed the removal of crosses from churches in Zhejiang province has been released.

Pastor Gu Yuese has now been placed under "residential surveillance".

He was senior pastor of the state-sanctioned Chongyi Church, one of the biggest in China, in Zhejiang but was fired after his detention. He was also chair of the Zhejiang branch of the China Christian Council, which helps oversee registered churches.

He was first detained in January and then arrested in February on charges of embezzling funds. 

According to China Aid, both Pastor Gu and Christian human rights lawyer Zhang Kai were released in advance of President Xi's visit to the US for the Nuclear Security Summit in Washington DC.

Also in China, Christian human rights lawyer Ni Yulan has been prevented from travelling to the US to receive an International Women of Courage Award. Ni, who has previously been imprisoned and tortured, was refused a new passport, apparently because of her connection with lawyers detained in a "crackdown" on July 9, in which more than 300 lawyers, activists, family members and associates were interrogated, detained, imprisoned and disappeared.

China's Chongyi ChurchKatshamash/YouTube

Ni and her husband have also been forced to leave their home after pressure was applied to their property agent by police. Her husband Dong Jiqin was physically assaulted as they were dragged out.

Mervyn Thomas, Chief Executive of Christian Solidarity Worldwide, said: "We welcome news of Pastor Gu's release but note with concern that he is not actually free as he is under residential surveillance. We are also deeply concerned about reports that lawyer Ni Yulan has been prevented from travelling to the US and has been forcibly evicted from her home.

"We congratulate Ms Ni on receiving this award, in recognition of her tireless and courageous efforts to defend the rights of petitioners and other citizens in China. CSW calls on the Chinese authorities to grant Ni Yulan a passport, to cease all harassment and intimidation of Ni and her husband, and to uphold the right of lawyers in China to practice their profession without interference.

"We also urge China to remove restrictions on Pastor Gu and to guarantee the right to freedom of religion or belief for Christians and other religious communities in China."