Chinese Christian Leaders Jailed for Trying to Stop Church Demolition

Michael Ireland | ASSIST News Service | Monday, November 30, 2009

Chinese Christian Leaders Jailed for Trying to Stop Church Demolition

November 30, 2009

SHANXI, CHINA (ANS) -- Several Chinese House Church leaders have been given severe prison sentences following criminal charges of "illegally occupying farming land" and "disturbing transportation order by gathering masses."

According to ChinaAid, the trial of Linfen house church leaders in Shanxi province was held from 9:00 AM to about 10:00 PM on November 25 (Beijing time), lasting over 12 hours. The verdicts were announced immediately following the trial.

Pastors Yang Rongli, Wang Xiaoguang, Yang Xuan, Cui Jiaxing, and Zhang Huamei have been been held in detention since their unwarranted arrests on Friday, September 25, 2009, when they attempted to travel to Beijing an lodge a formal complaint about the destruction of their church to the Central governing authorities. Their trial was held in the No. 12 Trial Room at People's Court of Raodu District, Linfen City, Shanxi province.

Sister Yang Rongli received 7 years severe sentence for both charges; Pastor Wang 3 years for the first charge, brother Yang Xuan, 3 and a half years, and Cui Jiaxing earned 4 and a half years for the first charge; Sister Zhang Huamei was found guilty of the second charge, and sentenced to 4 years in prison.

ChinaAid stated in a media release: "The Court's conduct throughout the trial clearly indicated the government had decided upon the verdict and prepared it in advance. There were only two 20-minute breaks for recess, and only four family members of the convicted prisoners were allowed to be present during the trial."

China Aid reported the government prosecutors showed over 1,000 pages of so-called "evidence materials" related to this case, but the defense lawyers were only allowed to review about 50 pages before the trial to prepare their defense.

ChinaAid said: "The six Christian rights defense lawyers, including renowned Attorneys Li Fangping (Simon) and Zhang Kai (Kevin), presented a very clear and satisfactory defense of the innocence of the five church leaders. Three of the accused church leaders were seen in excellent spirit with clear mind, when the lawyers' were presenting their case."

ChinaAid added: "Sister Yang Rongli and Pastor Wang Xiaoguang's son was able to briefly chat with his parents during one recess time near the bathroom outside the court room. Sister Yang and Pastor Wang encouraged their son to stand firm in his faith in Christ.

"Yang and Wang have led the Fushan church, part of the 50,000 members house church network in Linfen and the surrounding villages, for more than 30 years. The Fushan Church leaders unwarranted arrests, detentions, and severe sentences after the massive church destruction on September 13, marks one of the worst crackdowns on house church leaders in the past decade."

"To punish an innocent house church leader with 7 years imprisonment is the most serious sentence since 2004 when the senior Henan house church leader pastor Zhang Rongliang received a similar length, " said ChinaAid President Bob Fu.

"We strongly condemn these unjust sentences, which are based on trumped-up charges. This case clearly shows the serious deteriorating situation of religious persecution in China. We call upon the Obama administration and international community to speak up unequivocally in its concern about this case."