Guizhou authorities attempt to disrupt house church gathering; lawyer taken into custody

Authorities first raided the Daguan house church’s gatherings
on May 24, 2015. (Photo: China Aid)

China Aid
By Rachel Ritchie

(Daguan, Guizhou—June 11, 2015) Two weeks after police in China’s inland Guizhou province raided a house church gathering and detained 11 Christians, police disrupted another worship service on Sunday. Following the incident, church members traveled to Guiyang, Guizhou’s capital, to consult with their lawyer and were taken into custody by authorities. Also, one of the initial detainees told China Aid that they were beaten during detention.

Persecution against the house church in Daguan township, located in Qianxi County, in the city of Bijie, began on May 24, when 30-40 armed police officers raided a gathering of 70-80 church members. During the raid, dozens were taken to the local police station for interrogation and 11 were administratively detained, including the couple, Xu Guoqing and his wife, Zhou Xunmin, in whose home the gathering was held. Those Christians have since been released.

On Sunday, China Aid reported that a group of Domestic Security Protection Squad (DSPS) officers from the local public security bureau disrupted another gathering by climbing a low wall into the church building.

According to an update, only five officers came to disrupt Sunday’s gathering of 40-some church members, which was led by Xu Guoqing. Three of the officers climbed the wall into the building while two others guarded the gate in order to catch church members as they left the gathering.

“The public security bureau is here again today, as they are every day,” Zhou Xunmin said Sunday in a phone call to China Aid’s reporter while gathering was in progress. “During our church service, five or six police asked us to let them in, but we refused and said we would not open the door until the service has finished. [They] climbed the wall to get in our church. I heard them say that once we open the door, they will arrest my husband and deal with him.”

An hour later, China Aid’s Hong Kong reporters spoke to Xu and Zhou’s son, who was also at the gathering. “The three police that climbed over the wall of our church are monitoring our activities from the hallway. One the officers told my father to go with him, but my father refused to go, so they may arrest him after the church service. There are approximately 40-50 people worshipping in the church while two police guard the door.”

At 11 p.m., after the situation in the church was resolved, six church members traveled to Guiyang, the provincial capital, to consult lawyer Li Guisheng, who is working with some of the 11 Christians detained on May 24. After the church members met with Li, they went to a hotel where they were taken into custody by local public security bureau officers, who claimed to be investigating their IDs.

Li was also taken to the local police station: “I showed my ID to the police, who suggested that it was not sufficient and as a result, also took me to the police station for questioning. I resisted, but they forced me into the car. Once we arrived at the police station, they didn’t ask me any questions. I just sat and waited. After the police from Qianxi County came and took the church members back to Daguan, the police let me go. The whole process took about an hour.”

Li said he didn’t have any information about the Christians who were taken back to Daguan because police had confiscated their cell phones.

When China Aid’s reporter contacted the police station that took Li and the Christians into custody, the officer who answered the phone denied Li’s detention.

The reporter then attempted to contact the police station’s vice deputy, Su Zhouqian, who told the reporter to ask in person.

“I have seen the written Administrative Penalty Decision from the public security bureau,” Li said. “The police broke the Law of the People’s Republic of China on Penalties for Administration of Public Security, Article 27, Item 2, when they detained the Christians for 10 days. They are accusing the church members of disturbing social order under the name of religion or qigong. Where did those accusations come from? These people are farmers who do not understand these accusations, but simply want to believe in God. Religious freedom is not wrong.”

The Christians detained on May 24 have since been released. Zhou said that she and Xu were released on Friday and that another church member, Xiao Kang was released on Saturday. “The [public security bureau] threaten a man named Wang at his home every day,” Zhou said.

“At the detention center, they forced us to sign confessions, and if we refused to sign, they beat us. My husband, Wei Qing and Fu Hanguo were beaten. They continued to threaten us, and one police guard said: “Who do you think you are? I will shoot you if you are Falun Gong,” Zhou said. “They always considered us a cult and used Falun Gong as an example to which to compare us.”

“When they heard of our lawyer’s and your involvement, they changed their attitude and tone,” Zhou told China Aid’s reporter. “At first, they said we were gathering illegally and that we were a cult. However, after they heard of your involvement,, they said we just needed to register our church,” Zhou said.

China Aid also learned that when Pastor Yang Hua, lawyer Li Guisheng, and church members Luo Shihong nad Heng Quan attempted to visit the detained Christians on May 29, they were turned away. After leaving, they were followed by a group of men, one of whom was holding a knife and threatening to “chop them into pieces.” The men stopped following the Christians after Li phoned the police.

The church has been in operation for more than 13 years and is home to more than 300 Christians, with 80 attending a typical Sunday service.

The following audio consists of interviews with church members, Li Guisheng and public security bureau officers.

Below is a written record of the events of May 29, as told by lawyer Xiao Yunyang:

Account of human rights defense by the Daguan house church in Qianxi County (Part 1) 

The history of the house church at Daguan town in Qianxi County goes back more than 13 years. Currently, with more than 300 church members, its weekly Sunday worship services draw more than 80 attendees. The Christians have selected the second floor of the home of Kang Ju as their meeting site. This is a typical house church. On May 24, 2015, an unexpected and disastrous event fell from the heavens. More than 50 fully armed officers from the county’s Domestic Security Protection Squad (DSPS), the Religious Affairs Bureau, and Anti-Riot Squad barged into the house church, accompanied by police dogs that also acted like they were facing some formidable enemy, and announced that the Christians were meeting illegally. With the exception of those who were older than 70, they rounded up everyone, and in the end kept 12 people in custody at the Qianxi County Detention Center.

On May 29, 2015, Pastor Yang Hua, Luo Shihong, lawyer Li Guisheng from Hengquan and I drove to Qianxi County. We arrived at Qianxi County at around 12 p.m. After accepting [the church’s] authorization [to act on its behalf]; we decided to go to the detention center to see our clients and to learn about the case. The police at the detention center checked our paperwork, felt that they were in accordance with the regulations for a [lawyer-client] meeting, and instructed us to leave our cell phones in the safe deposit box. Just as we were about to meet our clients, a director surnamed Qin arrived, telling us to rest for a while and that he would arrange the meeting soon. After a while, an official told us that because this case was being specially handled by the DSPS, all lawyers had to go to the DSPS to get permission to meet with their clients. After much back-and-forth, the official told us that our clients were indeed detained there and would be detained for 10 days for violating the Law of the People’s Republic of China on Penalties for Administration of Public Security, Article 27. The official even recited the detailed penalties of the article to us. [Therefore] we know that the Public Security Bureau is using the “cult” label to punish them.

After we left the detention center, as we were heading for the Qianxi County Public Security Bureau, we noticed white Volkswagen car was tailing us. When we arrived at the Qianxi County Public Security Bureau, we learned that the [the office for the] DSPS was at the former Public Security Bureau. After some discussion, we decided to “divide the troops.” Li Guisheng would go to negotiate with the legal department while I would head to the DSPS to take care of the paperwork for meeting [our clients]. As I headed for the DSPS, we were followed the entire way by that white Volkswagen.

When we arrived at the DSPS, we met with Chief Tang and explained the reason for our being there. Chief Tang told us that it was the first time in his life that he had heard that his permission was required for meeting with detainees. He added that there was no legal basis for lawyers meeting with detainees on whom public security penalties had been imposed, but neither were there any laws forbidding lawyers from having such meetings. I said that since lawyers [for those who had been ] criminally detained are allowed to meet their clients, and since public security offenses are less of a threat to the society than criminal offenses, then, in accordance with the principal of protecting the punished, such meetings obviously should be allowed. The law stipulates that during one’s detention period, one can hire a lawyer to protect one’s rights and can file administrative lawsuits. Lawyers handling suits need to meet with their clients to have an exchange of views with them and to understand the circumstances of the case. After [further] discussion, Chief Tang said he could not arrange a meeting today [but] would arrange a meeting for me as quickly as possible. Then Li Guisheng, whose discussions with the legal department had come to nothing, also arrived at the DSPS. Li Guisheng noted that the detention center refused to let us meet and asked Chief Tang to make the arrangements because the detention center had been so instructed by the DSPS, but Chief Tang said they had never instructed the detention center that visits with lawyers were not allowed. Li Guisheng said: “Based on what Chief Tang says, was Deputy Head Qin of the detention center lying? Were you telling lies from the beginning?” Chief Tang said nothing in response. We asked for photocopies of our client’s sentencing papers. Chief Tang said he could not agree to our request because the person in charge of the sentencing papers was on a business trip to Guiyang. We brought up the fact that the relatives of our clients had not received detention notices and that the DSPS had failed to deliver legal paperwork as required by law. Chief Tang replied that whatever legal documents should have been delivered had already been delivered in accordance with the law. Li Guisheng wanted to see proof of delivery. That’s when Chief Tang said he would make our requests known to the bureau leaders when he goes to attend meetings at the bureau-level.

As we left the DSPS in our vehicles, we got a glimpse of the people who were following us. They are several muscular young men, one of whom was sunburned and bearded.

Luo Shihong asked them: “We are going to the detention center. Are you going to follow us there?” Those people immediately started yelling curses at us and continued to follow us. Shortly thereafter, Pastor Yang Hua (who was in the car behind us) telephoned us to say that the people following us were from the mafia and had stuck a long knife out the car [window] and yelled to Pastor Hua: “I’ll hack you to death!” We circled Xiancheng Boulevard several times but were unable to shake the Volkswagen. I first called Chief Tang to tell him gangsters were following us. Chief Tang very calmly told us to call 110 for help. Since we could not shake the gangsters, we called 110 for help, lest anything untoward happen. 110 replied that they would immediately send policemen to meet us. We decided to drive to the Public Security Bureau for protection. The car following us also came to the front door of the Public Security Bureau. Forty minutes after our call (5:15 p.m.), the local policemen arrived (5:50 p.m.). The 110 dispatch center told us that people who were following us had been apprehended. The local policemen asked us to go to the local police station so they could investigate the case. After the investigation, we asked for information about the people who were following us and wanted to know why they were following us. The police told us that since they were unable to recover any “props” [meaning the knife], they had released those people. We asked to know which department was handling the case of these people who were tailing us. The local police told us that it was not them but another department assigned by the 110 dispatch center. I inquired of the dispatch center and was told, in accordance with the principle of territorial jurisdiction, the people who were following us would all be handled by the same police station. With regard to our request to see the surveillance video from the front door of the Public Security Bureau; the official said he would ask his supervisor and told us to wait to be notified.

On May 29, 2015 at 11:00 p.m., we went back to Guiyang. On the road, Pastor Yang Hua was still in shock that we had been threatened with a knife by the people who were following us. Today’s events were really heart-stopping but we are not afraid. The defense of human rights defense will not be stopped by threats.

Yutai Law Firm
Xiao Yunyang
May 30, 2015 in Guiyang

China Aid Contacts
Rachel Ritchie, English Media Director
Cell: (432) 553-1080 | Office: 1+ (888) 889-7757 | Other: (432) 689-6985
Email: [email protected]

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