(Guiyang, Guizhou—June 13, 2017) After a heavily persecuted house church in the capital of China’s southern Guizhou province called for a hearing on June 9 to dispute a 7 million yuan fine, court officials broke multiple laws and protocols during the setup and conduct of the court session.
|The hearing was held on June 9 at the Nanming District Mass
Cultural Center. Many church members were barred from
Huoshi Church, the largest house church in Guiyang, has been targeted for persecution over the last two years. Following widespread arrests, church leaders imprisoned, and even a government campaign aimed at shutting all meeting places down, the latest act of aggression against Huoshi is a fine of approximately 7,054,000 yuan ($1,020,200 USD).
Using figures from Huoshi Church’s internal accounting documents, the Nanming District Religious Affairs Bureau concluded that all of the donations the church received from April 2009 to November 2015 were “illegal income” and levied a fine for that amount.
Throughout the process of the hearing, which took place on June 9 in a small room in the Nanming District Mass Cultural Center, government officials broke protocol and did not observe the relevant laws in organizing the hearing.
Though the hearing was supposed to be open to the public, members of Huoshi Church and other local Christians were barred from entering by police. The legal team representing Huoshi Church, who called the hearing, asked that the officials from the religious affairs bureau responsible for the fine be excluded from the hearing. Though the church’s lawyers had the right to make such a request, the government refused.
“The religious affairs bureau did not strive to protect our legal rights throughout the process,” Su Tianfu, one of Huoshi Church’s pastors, told a ChinaAid reporter. “The hearing process was an avoidance system.”
Additionally, the members of the court who oversaw the hearing were officials who had attacked and persecuted Huoshi Church. The lawyers asked the hearing’s recorder to leave, as she was involved in actions against Huoshi Church in the past, but she was not removed from the proceedings.
The director of the hearing, Qiao Gaohua, also serves as the director of the Nanming District Religious Affairs Bureau. One of the lawyers said that Qiao was using illegal methods to conduct the hearing and said it should have been immediately halted.Officials repeatedly interrupted the lawyers, and Qiao said he could only be dismissed by a superior from a higher department. The lawyers also requested copies of documents from the court, but the government refused.
One of Huoshi Church’s legal team, Xiao Yunyang, offered a statement regarding the way the hearing was conducted. “We asked [the people involved with this case] to leave, and they refused. Secondly, we left the conference hall because the files were full of mistakes. The government officials broke laws by attending this hearing. The court clerk and Director Qiao were both in charge of this case and should have left the hearing, according to the avoidance system and relevant laws, by which they refused to abide. In addition, we demanded to make photocopies of the case files and evidence, so we would have enough time to prepare, but were turned down by the government. The day before the hearing, we then asked the government officials to make copies for us, but they said no.” Xiao also said the hearing was “meaningless.”
Huoshi Church was founded in 2009 and, before meetings stopped in December 2015, had approximately 500 members. Several of the church’s leadership, including a pastor, Yang Hua, and the church’s accountant, Zhang Xiuhong, have been imprisoned on false charges.
ChinaAid exposes the abuses conducted against Huoshi Church in order to promote religious freedom, human rights, and rule of law.