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125 Christian Meeting Halls in China Shut

November 20, 2003

BEIJING (AP) _ Authorities in an east China province have sealed off 125 Christian gathering places since July, cutting off 3,000 believers from their places of worship, a human rights organization said Thursday.

The makeshift churches in Jiangsu province were ordered closed by local officials seeking to crack down on what they deem to be underground religious activity, the Hong Kong-based Information Center for Human Rights and Democracy said.

Officials in the public security bureaus of Suqian city, Danyang city and Xushui County _ where the reported church closures took place _ could not be reached for comment late Thursday.

China only allows religious worship in state-sponsored churches, temples and mosques, and considers any independent organization to be a threat to communist rule.

Jiangsu province is directly north of Shanghai.

Update hourly