Chinese House Church Pastor Sentenced to 7.5 Years-Compass Direct News

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Summary:
BEIJING, July 6 (Compass Direct) – The Zhongmu City People’s Court sentenced Chinese house church pastor Zhang Rongliang to seven and a half years in prison on June 29, though a co-worker said he was not notified of the verdict until Tuesday (July 4). Zhang is a key leader of the  China for Christ house church movement, formerly known as Fangcheng but
renamed by Zhang in October 2004. He was arrested by Henan police without
charges on December 1, 2004.  Only months later was he charged with
“attaining a passport through cheating” and with “illegal border
crossing.” Zhang’s lawyer, Zheng Laiyou, was not optimistic about an appeal. “It
is very clear that the verdict was not made independently by the
People’s Court,” he said. Pastor Zhang’s wife, Chen Hongxian, was shocked at
the verdict. “Who would have thought the outcome would be this bad?”
Chen said. “It is the Communist Party’s court, not the People’s Court,
that makes the real decision.”
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Chinese House Church Pastor Sentenced to 7.5 Years
Zhang Rongliang’s shocked wife says she has ‘lost confidence’ in
courts.

by Timothy Chow
BEIJING, July 6 (Compass Direct) – The Zhongmu City People’s Court
sentenced Chinese house church pastor Zhang Rongliang to seven and a half
years in prison on June 29, though a co-worker said he was not notified
of the verdict until Tuesday (July 4).

Zhang is a key leader of the China for Christ house church movement,
formerly known as Fangcheng but renamed by Zhang in October 2004.
He was arrested by Henan police without charges on December 1, 2004. 
Only months later was he charged with “attaining a passport through
cheating” and with “illegal border crossing.” Chinese authorities often
deny passports to well-known house church leaders.

Previously Zhang had been detained five times and spent a total of 12
years in prison for his religious activities. He also co-authored a
joint house church “Confession of Faith,” written in 1999, to plead for
clemency during a widespread government crackdown against “cult”
movements.

Following his arrest, authorities confiscated Christian DVDs and other
materials from Zhang’s house that allegedly linked him with foreign
Christians. Contact with foreign co-religionists can constitute illegal
activity in China.

‘Insufficient Evidence’
Chinese law allows the defendant to appeal within 10 days of receiving
the verdict, but Zhang’s lawyer, Zheng Laiyou, was not optimistic about
an appeal.

“It is very clear that the verdict was not made independently by the
People’s Court,” he said.

The verdict follows a series of court hearings, the last of which was
held on April 6. By April 13, the Zhongmu City People’s Court had
acknowledged that “there was insufficient evidence and ambiguous facts,” and
submitted the case to the Zhengzhou City Intermediate People’s Court
for legal advice. (See Compass Direct, “Chinese Court Seeks Advice in
Case Against Zhang Rongliang,” April 13.)

At the April 6 hearing, Zhang had argued his right for a passport as a
Chinese citizen and denied the charge of “attaining passports through
cheating” for three of his co-workers.

Pastor Zhang’s wife, Chen Hongxian, was shocked at Tuesday’s verdict.
She had not seen him for six months.

“Who would have thought the outcome would be this bad?” Chen said,
adding that she had lost confidence in the people’s court and would not
appeal the verdict. “It is the Communist Party’s court, not the People’s
Court, that makes the real decision.”

Pastor Zhang has five chronic diseases, including high blood pressure
and severe diabetes, which were all acknowledged in an official hospital
diagnosis in 2005.

According to Chinese law, Pastor Zhang is qualified to ask for medical
parole based on his health condition.

Chen has appealed to human rights groups around the world to pay close
attention to her husband’s case – and has asked the international
Christian community to continue praying for her husband.

Shifting Courts
Following hearings in June and August 2005, presiding chief judge Xu
Zhijun told Zhang’s family that he had no personal grudge against Zhang
and that he would judge his case fairly according to the law. But four
months later, in December 2005, officials suddenly transferred Zhang to
a prison in Zhongmu city, about 60 kilometers (37 miles) away from
Xinmi.

According to a government official sympathetic to the plight of house
church members, the Zhengzhou City Political and Legal Committee was
displeased with an impending decision by the People’s Court of Xinmi to
dismiss all charges and release Zhang. The Zhengzhou committee therefore
asked the Zhongmu city court to re-examine the case.

Officials in Zhongmu refused to accept Zhang, however, fearing he might
die in their custody as a result of serious health problems. Zhang was
then admitted to the Xinmi city People’s Hospital on December 19, 2005,
where he stayed until January 23. One witness reported seeing Zhang
handcuffed and chained to his hospital bed.

Later Zhang was transferred to a Zhongmu City hospital, where he spent
most of February and March. Officials, however, judged him well enough
to attend the final hearing in April.

END
*** Photos of Zhang Rongliang and his wife Chen Hongxian are available
electronically. Contact Compass Direct for pricing and transmittal.

**********
Copyright 2006 Compass Direct




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