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China Detains Three Americans Under Anti-Proselytizing Laws

February 15, 1994

BEIJING (AP) _ Chinese authorities detained three Americans for five days, apparently enforcing new decrees that bar foreigners from a wide range of religious activities.

The three, who were released today, were detained along with seven other people at a private home in Henan province last week, Christian Solidarity International and Amnesty International said.

Seven of the detainees - the three Americans, two Hong Kong Chinese and two Indonesians - were visiting China as a group, the organizations said. Amnesty International said the seven had planned to meet Christians in rural areas.

Christian Solidarity, a U.S.-based group that promotes religious freedom, identified the Americans as the Rev. Dennis Balcombe, Paul Fergusson and Daughin Chan.

China’s constitution grants freedom of religion, but proselytizing is prohibited. Foreign missionaries have been expelled for holding Bible study groups or otherwise trying to convert Chinese.

Earlier this month, China announced new rules forbidding foreigners from other religious activities, including setting up schools or other religious organizations. Christian Solidarity said the three were arrested because of those new rules.

It was not clear whether the Americans were expelled from China, nor was information available on the status of the other detainees.

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