China releases five Christian prisoners ahead of G20 summit

Five Christians detained for four months were suddenly released by Chinese authorities on Aug. 28. Locals believe that the release is related to the upcoming G20 summit which will take place in Hangzhou, China on Sept. 4.

Hangzhou will be hosting the G20 summit this September. | Wikimedia Commons/Nat Krause

Ji Qingcao, Ji Qingcou, Ou Jinsi, Mei Xueshun and He Lijing, were arrested in April for obstructing government administration and disturbing public order. They were among the protestors who opposed the demolition of the Guankou Church in September 2015. According to China Aid, many others were detained for various reasons prior to the arrest in April.

"I feel like the government is trying to pacify the people before the summit meeting. Since the summit meeting will be held here [on September 4]," a Christian in Wenzhou told China Aid. "The government begins to worry that they have detained the Christians for too long. The local government was concerned about petitions organized by the family members, thinking higher officials would pressure them," the Christian added.

A pastor from another church is still being held by the authorities for "gathering a crowd to disturb social order." Wen Xiaowu, leader of a church in Rui'an, was arrested with his wife and son on April 15 after his meeting with diplomatic officers in the U.S. Embassy in Shanghai.

This is the first time for China to host the G20 summit. U.S. President Barack Obama, British Prime Minister Theresa May, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Russian President Vladimir Putin and other world leaders are expected to attend.

CNN reported that factories in Hangzhou had been closed as part of the preparations for G20. A migrant worker said that his gas tank for cooking was taken by officials because it failed to meet safety standards.

Tighter security measures are also in place at the city's popular attractions.