Chinese officials have detained several Christians who were accused of being members of a cult in China's southwestern Yunnan province.
On Oct. 22, a woman named Tu Yan was arrested while she was on the way home from a Christian gathering on the suspicion "using a cult organization to undermine the implementation of the law," China Aid reported. She was arrested again for the same reason a month later, and she was accused of organizing three meetings for two organizations that were labeled as "evil cults."
Tu said that four other church members were detained for the same charge. Some local Christians claim that as many as 12 Christians were arrested by the police. Three people have since been released, but Tu and at least one other church member remain in custody.
Eight Christians were also detained by the police for similar charges in Yunnan's capital of Kunming on Nov. 27. They were accused of belonging to the Shouters, a Christian sect that originated from Taiwan.
The group has been characterized by the government as a cult, but its pastor, Xu Yonghai, maintains that it is a Christian denomination. Xu also said that many Christians know nothing about cults even when they are accused of belonging to them.
A widespread crackdown against Christianity has been taking place in China in the past year.
Tighter regulations on religious activities are set to take effect next year. The new proposals included in the Regulations on Religious Affairs prohibit "organizing religious activities in unapproved religious sites" and "preaching, organizing religious activities, and establishing religious institutions or religious sites at schools."
Bob Fu, president and founder of China Aid, has met with several U.S. government officials earlier this month to advocate for prisoners of conscience in China. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, Sen. Marco Rubio, and Congressman Chris Smith were among those who expressed their support for Fu's campaign.
The U.S. Senate has recently passed the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act, which will allow the U.S. president to impose sanctions against human rights violators.
Fu hailed the passing of the law as a "true mile stone for human rights."
"This is Let's hold all abusers of religious freedom and human rights accountable! I am so proud of our coalitions for being part of this effort. China Aid hopes President Obama has the courage to sign this bill into law before he leaves office," he said.