Carey fears for pastor in Peking

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The Independent Online
THE Archbishop of Canterbury, George Carey, who arrives in Peking today, has asked China's religious authorities to clarify reports that an elderly pastor may be barred from seeing him, writes Teresa Poole.

The official Peking China Christian Council (CCC) has been trying to remove pastor Yang Yudong, 73, from his post at Gangwashi church in central Peking for months. Gangwashi is one of the largest official Protestant churches in Peking. Led by Mr Yang, who spent almost 20 years in prison and labour camp, it is one of the most independent of the capital's official churches.

Yu Xinli, general secretary of the Peking CCC, said recently that he had been chosen to replace Mr Yang because the pastor was too old to attract a congregation. In fact, Gangwashi is full to overflowing at every service, including many young Christians. A week ago, the head of the church committee, Li Dequan, was held by police for 20 hours supposedly because of a property dispute, but probably to try to intimidate the congregation who have refused to allow Mr Yang to be replaced.

An official travelling with the Archbishop last night said Dr Carey 'would be concerned if a senior pastor had been preventing from seeing him'. Dr Carey did not usually request one-to-one meetings, the official said.

Reports last week that Mr Yang had been put under house arrest did not appear to be true. But a Western resident in Peking said, in an unconfirmed report, that Mr Yang had not given the sermons at yesterday's services at Gangwashi.