■ A Christian pastor, who has been incarcerated in China for almost four years, was reportedly tortured by prison officials after he attempted to file an appeal on his case.
Zhang Shaojie, a pastor of Nanle County Church, is currently serving a 12-year sentence at Xinxiang Prison of Henan Province.
|Members of the congregation clean the unofficial catholic
church after Sunday service in Majhuang village, Hebei
Province, China, December 11, 2016. Picture taken December
11, 2016. (Reuters/Thomas Peter)
According to China Aid, Zhang was charged with “swindling” and “assembling a crowd to disrupt the public order” in July 2014 after he led a group of Christians to Beijing to file a petition over a land dispute with the county government.
Zhang’s church was officially a part of the Three-Self Patriotic Movement, a group of churches officially sanctioned by the Chinese government. He is one of the first Three-Self pastors who received such a sentence since the time of the Cultural Revolution.
The pastor appealed his sentence in August 2014, but his attempt has been met with failure. Despite the unsuccessful attempt, Zhang recently decided to file another appeal, a move which angered prison officials.
Zhang’s daughter, Zhang Huixin, who currently lives in America under her English name, Esther Zhang, has sent a plea to China Aid on his behalf.
“My father applied to file an appeal, but the government officials said that they would not process the appeal unless he would plead guilty. They are treating him harshly in order to bend him,” said Esther.
Esther said that Wen Songshan, the recently appointed director of the Henan Provincial Prison Management Bureau, received an order from the secretary of the Development Research Center of the State Council, Huang Shouhong, to torture her father.
The prison reportedly enacted a “strict supervision” policy for Zhang, which includes the infliction of several different methods of torture.
“They cruelly torture my father,” Esther said. “He’s unable to see the sun during the day. He’s deprived of sleep for 24 hours at a time. The prison gives him only one steamed bun a day and intentionally starves him. According to people who have been released from that prison, my father is barely alive, suffering both mentally and physically,” she added.
Zhang Cuijuan, the pastor’s sister, said that he was already in poor condition when she visited him in prison recently. She noted that Zhang’s eyes burned from sleep deprivation and he is suffering from depression. She added that they were forbidden to discuss the case and that the prison guard held the phone throughout the entire conversation.
Esther noted that family members were only allowed to visit once a month for 30 minutes. She claimed that Zhang was forbidden to talk about anything inside the jail, and she was also forbidden from telling the pastor about anything outside the prison.
The pastor’s daughter is hoping that her testimony will raise awareness about her father’s situation and put pressure on the Chinese government to release him.
The Chinese government has been known to commit human rights abuses on inmates. China Aid founder Bob Fu recently recounted the “sadistic torture” suffered by Christian lawyer, Li Heping, during his time in prison.
Li, who was arrested along with 250 other human rights lawyers in July 2015, reportedly endured confinement in frigid cells, beatings, electric shocks, sleep deprivation and being chained in stress positions.
According to a report by Freedom House, as many as 100 million people in China, including Protestant Christians, are facing “high” or “very high” levels of persecution.