China Aid Association
China’s ‘Brother Z’: A Christian Hero Needs Our Support
One of China’s beloved house-church leaders has been sentenced to seven years in prison. He needs our prayers—and urgent diplomatic intervention.
One of the most prominent leaders of China’s underground house-church movement, Zhang Rongliang, has been sentenced to seven and a half years in prison after being charged with “illegal border crossing” and other crimes. According to China Aid Association, Zhang was sentenced last week—ironically, on July 4.
Affectionately known as “Brother Z,” Zhang has already spent 12 years in prison since he was secretly baptized in 1969. He was often tortured during those years.
He will spend his 56th birthday this week in a Chinese prison cell.
“Chinese authorities need to know that what they are doing to Christian leaders in their country is not hidden from our view.”
I met Brother Z when I was in southern China in the year 2000. He does not look like the leader of 10 million Christians. Often wearing unkempt navy trousers and a wrinkled blue shirt, his black hair tousled, he easily blends into the crowd when mingling among the millions in China’s Henan province.
But he is no ordinary peasant from Henan. This simple man—who prefers to sit on the floor when meeting with his team—is an apostle who has planted thousands of churches since the early 1970s. Foreign missionaries and Chinese-church workers alike consider him the most influential leader in the church in China.
Like a New Testament apostle, Zhang bears the brand marks of suffering. He has endured beatings with iron rods and bayonets. He was even shocked with an electric cattle prod.
Converted to Christ in 1963 at age 13, Zhang attended covert house churches in rural areas of Henan—where Mao Tse-tung’s dreaded Public Security Bureau (PSB) officials were on the lookout for religious “counterrevolutionaries.” In 1974, PSB officers handcuffed him and beat him with sticks to force him to reveal information about his Christian activities. His refusal to deny his faith or betray his colleagues landed him in the Xi Hua labor camp for seven years.
Yet like the apostle Paul, Zhang’s faith thrived even while he was imprisoned. He was put in charge of a work team and given unusual freedom to move around the camp’s outskirts. As a result, he actually planted churches among rural villagers during his detainment.
After Zhang was released from Xi Hua in 1980, he founded the Chinese for Christ movement—a vast network of churches that had grown to an estimated 10 million members by the year 2001. “It is impossible to know the accurate number,” Zhang told me. “It’s like the census of China. You can never be sure. Even while we are talking here, we are starting churches. The work of God’s kingdom is so fast.”
Much of this explosive growth has been linked to miracles, Zhang says. In 1993, in one rural county of Henan province, about 15,000 people were added to the church when news spread that a local government official was paralyzed for several hours after he tried to stop Zhang and his team from conducting an evangelistic crusade in a sports arena.
“The man pointed to us and told his deputies to arrest us,” Zhang said. “But after that he could not move, and his deputies had to take him to his car even while his arm was still pointing.”
Zhang’s ministry is marked by an absolute assurance that China will be completely evangelized. Rather than cowering in the face of resistance from the government, he views barriers as opportunities.
Today he faces perhaps one of the greatest barriers ever to face his ministry. Besides being detained in a Chinese prison, he suffers from diabetes. According to
China Aid, Zhang’s wife and his two sons are seriously concerned for his safety. Bob Fu, president of China Aid, has asked the international Christian community to rally behind Zhang’s cause.
“We are deeply disappointed for this extraordinarily harsh verdict, given the fact that Chinese authorities often deny pastors passports and other travel documents to well-known religious leaders,” Fu says. “This is another case showing the Chinese government’s new tactic of religious persecution in the name of criminal charges.”
You can help Brother Z not only by praying for his health but also by contacting Chinese diplomats. Pass this message along to every Christian you know and ask them to call the numbers below. Chinese authorities need to know that what they are doing to Christian leaders in their country is not hidden from our view.
Demand Zhang’s release and tell them that you are appalled that China would imprison a church leader simply because of his religious beliefs.
You can contact the Chinese embassy in Washington as well as the Chinese consulate in your region of the country. Here are the numbers you should call:
Embassy of the People’s Republic of China
2300 Connecticut Ave., NW
Washington, DC 20008
Chinese Consulate in Chicago: 312-803-0095
Chinese Consulate in Houston: 713-524-0780
Chinese Consulate in Los Angeles: 213-807-8018
Chinese Consulate in New York City: 212-244-9392
Chinese Consulate in San Francisco: 415-674-2940
J. Lee Grady is editor of Charisma. He encourages you to pass this message along to as many intercessors and concerned Christians as possible
China Aid Contacts
Rachel Ritchie, English Media Director
Cell: (432) 553-1080 | Office: 1+ (888) 889-7757 | Other: (432) 689-6985
Email: [email protected]