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China Expels American For Missionary Work

March 6, 1990

BEIJING (AP) _ An American businessman was deported Monday after police accused him of illegally doing missionary work, the official news agency said.

Xinhua, in a dispatch Monday from the northeastern port of Tianjin, said John P. Cragin was ordered to leave China for conducting missionary activities since October in the guise of holding English-language classes.

Local police seized materials he was using for missionary work, an activity incompatible with his status as a businessman, Xinhua said.

China bans proselytizing and allows only religious activities organized by state-sanctioned church groups.

The report said Cragin was on the board of directors of a Chinese-foreign joint venture in Tianjin, but did not identify the company. It also did not say with what religious group Cragin was allegedly affiliated.

The U.S. Embassy in Beijing said Chinese authorities had not been informed of Cragin’s expulsion and the embassy had no information on the case.

An embassy official said it would be the first reported expulsion of an American for missionary activities since 12 American tourists were ordered out in June for distributing religious materials in the southwestern city of Kunming.

A Japanese couple teaching at Wuhan University in central China was deported in January for distributing Bibles to students and carrying out Christian missionary activities.

Despite the ban on missionaries, foreign Christian groups continue to work quietly inside China, mostly by sending badly needed language teachers to schools in the provinces.

Foreigners caught proselytizing usually face no more than deportation, but Chinese Christians conducting religious activities outside the established churches are subject to more severe punishment.

Asia News, a Catholic Church missionary bulletin, claimed in January that six bishops and 20 priests, deacons and lay people had been arrested in a crackdown on Chinese Catholics who are loyal to the Pope.

China’s official Catholic Church has no relations to the Vatican. About 8 million people belong to the official protestant and Catholic churches in China. Millions more worship in underground churches that are banned by the government.

Update hourly