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US Christian Group Leaves Chinese Airport After Standoff

Members of an American Christian group have ended a standoff with Chinese customs officials over Bibles they were trying to bring into the country.

Vision Beyond Borders leader Pat Klein said Monday that he and three others spent 26 hours at the Kunming airport in, the southwestern province Yunnan, waiting for officials to return more than 300 confiscated Bibles.

A representative for the group, Dyann Romeijn, told VOA the four decided to leave the airport Monday after it became clear Chinese officials would not return the books. She says Klein became concerned he and his colleagues - including a 78-year-old man and 15-year-old boy - would be forcibly removed from the airport.

The group was attempting to bring the Chinese-language scriptures into Kunming for distribution. But U.S embassy officials later told them that doing so violated a Chinese law prohibiting the import of religious products other than for personal use.

China does not allow missionary activity and strictly controls independent worship. Individuals who worship outside state-sanctioned churches, mosques and temples are frequently harassed.

Some are arrested and sentenced to prison or forced to work in labor camps because of their beliefs.

Last Sunday, a prominent Chinese Christian activist says he was arrested by police while on his way to a church service attended by U.S. President George Bush. Mr. Bush was in China to attend the Olympics and to hold meetings with Chinese officials.

A rights group reports that the activist, Hua Huiqi, says he was beaten and threatened by authorities while in detention, but later escaped and is now in hiding.

Some information for this report was provided by AP.