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US Group Urges China for Release

February 15, 1998

BEIJING (AP) _ A delegation of American religious leaders asked the Chinese government to release about 30 Catholics, Protestants and Buddhists reportedly being detained, a member of the group said Sunday.

Rabbi Arthur Schneier said the delegation gave the list of names to Ye Xiaowen, the government official in charge of religious affairs. The delegation also asked for information about why they were detained and how they are being treated, Schneier said.

Ye, director of the Religious Affairs Bureau, said he would respond later to the request, Schneier said.

A deputy director of the same government agency, Guo Wei, recently said in an interview that no one in China is held in prison or detention because of religious beliefs. Some prisoners may be believers, but they are imprisoned because they have violated the law, she said.

The Chinese government tightly controls religion. It requires all places of worship to meet government criteria and to register with the Religious Affairs Bureau.

The names on the list were suggested by members of Congress and representatives of U.S. non-governmental groups, Schneier said.

In addition to Schneier, president of the Appeal of Conscience Foundation, the other main members of the group are the Most Rev. Theodore McCarrick, archbishop of Newark, N.J., and the Rev. Don Argue, president of the National Association of Evangelicals.

On Sunday, members of the delegation attended services at two large Beijing churches legitimized by the Chinese government: the Southern Cathedral, a Catholic church; and Chongwenmen Church, part of the official non-denominational Protestant church.

The delegation, the first of its kind from the United States, flew to Nanjing on Sunday. They are also scheduled to visit Shanghai, Chengdu and Lhasa, the capital of Tibet.

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