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Last Updated: Friday, 6 August, 2004, 12:29 GMT 13:29 UK
Three Chinese Christians jailed
By Louisa Lim
BBC correspondent in Beijing

A Chinese woman in a Catholic cathedral in Beijing (archive picture)
Christianity is growing in China, to the concern of the authorities
A Chinese court has sentenced three Christians to up to three years in jail for leaking state secrets.

Xu Yonghai, Liu Fenggang and Zhang Shengqi were found guilty of passing on information to a US-based magazine.

The Beijing government is becoming increasingly alarmed at the rise of Christianity in China, a communist and officially atheist nation.

Religious organisations and human rights groups have been closely following this latest court case.

The three convicted men were members of an illegal house church, which met secretly to sing and pray.

Attending such a gathering is seen an act of defiance of state control in China.

The men were found guilty of leaking state secrets, after they passed information about a court case to US-based Christian organisations.

One of the men, Liu Fenggang, was also found guilty of passing on information about the government's destruction of unofficial churches in the eastern city of Hangzhou.

Activists say local governments are trying to extend their control over house churches, sometimes labelling them illegal cults in a bid to force their members to worship in the official churches.

In recent years, there has been a resurgence in religious belief in China.

International church groups estimate there could be as many as 35 million Protestants in the country.

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