Christians Suing Police for Detention Endure Months of Government Harassment

China Aid Association
(Qitai, China – May 3, 2011) The experience of three Christians in far northwest China who sued local law enforcement officials over a five-day detention last December demonstrates the ongoing and systematic persecution against Christians even when they seek redress through official channels.

ChinaAid had previously reported about the December 21 incident in Qitai county, in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, in which a group of Christians who were praying and reading the Bible in a friend’s home were hauled off to the local police station by unidentified individuals who burst into the private home.

The intruders turned out to be from the Qitai police, but when they disrupted the gathering, they did not identify themselves nor did they show any warrants or other paperwork authorizing their actions. The next day, the Christians were told that they were being administratively detained for five days for attending an “illegal Christian gathering.”
Following their release, the three Christians─two women, Wang Jinfeng and Pan Fengying, and a man, Wang Jingfu─decided to sue the Qitai Public Security Bureau, and through other church members hired a Beijing lawyer who was in the Xinjiang capital city of Urumqi. The lawyer, Li Dunyong, from the Beijing Gongxin Law Office, immediately prepared the case paperwork for them to submit to the court.
Before year’s end, they had submitted the paperwork three times, but the court refused to accept the case. Finally, on the third try, when the Christians threatened to go public, the court agreed to hear the case. A few days later, they were notified that the case would be heard on February 24.
When the Qitai police were notified of the suit, they sent the mayor and the head of the local armed forces to the plaintiffs’ homes to try to persuade them to drop the suit, asking them to give face to the police chief. A few days before the scheduled hearing, the vice president of the court’s administrative division also visited the plaintiffs trying to get them to drop the suit.
After the arrival of the Beijing lawyer, the Christians were told that the court had not finished its preparations for the case and still needed to submit its report to the Politics and Law Committee. Therefore the Feb. 24 hearing would not take place. When the lawyer questioned why the court had to report to the Politics and Law Committee about such a minor case, he was told that the case was not minor at all and that it had such far-reaching impact that even the Central Committee’s United Front Work Department had phoned up to ask about the case. The lawyer suspected that reports on the Internet had brought the case to the notice of the United Front. Finally, the court’s administrative division chief and the vice president gave the lawyer their phone numbers and said that the next time he was in Xinjiang to give them three days’ notice and they would reschedule the hearing.
Following this, personnel from the court and the Public Security Bureau visited the plaintiffs repeatedly, threatening them that no good would come of the matter if they persisted in their suit. Under this intense pressure from the organs of the state, Wang Jinfeng’s husband, who is not a Christian, forced his wife to withdraw from the suit because he could not take the harassment. Furthermore, each time the government officials showed up, there were a dozen or more of them, all of whom had to be hosted with food and drink, creating an overwhelming burden both mentally and financially for the plaintiffs.
The other two Christians, however, remained determined, saying they would rather go to jail or be executed than give in.
Wang Jingfu was visited on eight different occasions by officials from the court, the Public Security Bureau, the justice bureau, and the religious affairs bureau, as well as by local lawyers, the village chief and the local party secretary, all of them trying to persuade and to threaten Wang to drop the suit.
Public Security officials and others visited the home of Pan Fengying four times, and the deputy chief of the Public Security Bureau also called her up, threatening to arrest both her and her lawyer if they did not drop their suit. They persisted in their efforts right up to two days before the hearing.
The hearing finally was held on April 14, from 10 a.m. until after 2 p.m. No ruling was made that day.

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Rachel Ritchie, English Media Director
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