updated 12/16/2003 12:21:24 PM ET 2003-12-16T17:21:24

An Internet writer who posted articles online supporting China’s unofficial Christian church has been arrested amid a widening police crackdown on unregistered religious activities, a U.S.-based monitoring group said Tuesday.

Computer technician Zhang Shengqi was detained last month in a raid on the home of his fiancée  in the northeastern city of Jilin and has been charged with leaking state secrets, the China Aid Association said.

Zhang was later transferred to a jail in the eastern city of Hangzhou, where local authorities earlier detained two other activists as part of a crackdown on unofficial church activities, the association said.

Telephones rang unanswered at Hangzhou’s city government offices. A woman at the city’s police bureau who would only give her family name, Liu, said she had “never heard of this case,” while a man at the provincial jail said he was “unclear” about the matter. He refused to give his name.

Zhang’s arrest appeared to be related to police suspicions that he helped church historian Liu Fenggang post information on the Internet about the Hangzhou crackdown. Liu, a veteran pro-democracy campaigner, has also been detained in Hangzhou on state secrets charges.

Churches demolished, preachers detained
City authorities earlier this year demolished a number of unregistered churches and detained preachers in what activists said was a trial run for techniques to be used against unregistered religious groups elsewhere in China.

Bob Fu, president of the Glenside, Pennsylvania-based China Aid, said authorities tried to keep the crackdown quiet, but church activists elsewhere soon spread word about it and several traveled to Hangzhou to investigate.

Zhang’s case could be more complicated because it brings together two key security concerns for China’s secretive communist rulers: Unauthorized religious activity and political use of the Internet.

China allows worship only in tightly controlled state churches and regards unregistered congregations as subversive channels for foreign infiltration. Those who meet outside the official church are routinely harassed and fined, and sometimes sent to labor camps.

And while authorities have promoted the Internet for commercial use, they have given long prison terms to people who send or post messages online that criticize the government or advocate greater political or religious freedoms.

© 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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