Guizhou believers submit administrative reconsideration suit after false ‘cult’ accusation over hymnal

China Aid Association

(Liupanshui, Guizhou—July 1, 2014) More than a month after 12 believers in China’s inland Guizhou province were detained and labeled cult members for coincidentally using the same hymnal as government-defined cult, five of the detainees have filed administrative lawsuits as of June 23.

The 12, all from a 200-member house church in Liupanshui, were taken into custody between May 5-9. The first eight were detained on May 5, and the remaining four—the couple that leads the church and their daughter and son-in-law—were detained as soon as they got off a plane from Shenzhen, Guangdong on May 9. The Liupanshui Domestic Security Protection Squad officers that detained the two couples told them they were being taken in to “assist in an investigation.”

Since the initial detention, lawyers learned that the group was charged with “illegally gathering to disseminate a cult.” Authorities claim the 12 are cult members because the church uses the same hymnal as the Born Again Movement, an organization classified as a cult by the Chinese Communist Party.

Christian lawyer Zhang Peihong, representing church leader Xiang Youquan, said that Xiang denied the charges outright and insisted that the church is an orthodox house church. Xiang also told Zhang that he had never heard of Xu Yongze, the founder of the Born Again Movement, or the organization itself. Zhang said Xiang was determined to file for administrative reconsideration, “not for the sake of restoring his own reputation, but to restore the church’s reputation.”

“It is an ordinary house church, which has been meeting for more than 20 years,” Zhang said. “Doctrinally, it is a very traditional house church, and occasionally they use some hymnals in worship. These hymnals are also used by some so-called cult groups so the police put [the church members] in the same category.”

Zhang said that of the 12 detainees, only Xiang and his family members were served legal papers. “We need to assign each of [the detainees] a lawyer to represent them,” Zhang said. “Five have filed a lawsuit, and the other seven will follow suit.” The five are asking for some form of compensation for their detentions, which ranged from 10-15 days.

“Legal grounds? Let’s see… China’s law is like a chunk of play dough,” Zhang said when asked if authorities had a legal basis for detaining the group. “They do have legal grounds because, according to the Penalty Law of Public Security Management, they can take cult followers into custody. But the problem is how can you prove that the people you took into custody are cult followers? As for that, they don’t have convincing grounds.”

“It is downright power abuse and arbitrary fabrication of charges,” lawyer Chen Jiangang, another Christian’s representative, said of the situation. “This kind of persecution takes place everywhere in mainland China.”

“The first batch of administrative lawsuits is supposed to be reviewed and have been handed over to the court,” Zhang said. “There is no reason for the court not to receive the cases. The Decision on Punishment clearly spells out that clients can file an administrative lawsuit. They may make things a little tougher for us, but they will have to handle the cases.”

Zhang said the lawyers representing the five cases appealed to different branches of the Liupanshui Municipal Public Security Bureau: the Zhongshan branch and two agencies in the Shuicheng branch. Each agency of the Shuicheng branch held six believers after their initial detention.

Zhang also reported that he, along with a pastor from the church, drove to the Liupanshui Detention Center on May 14. Police stopped and questioned the men twice while they were en route. Zhang also reported being followed by domestic security protection squad officers his entire visit.

China Aid Contacts

Rachel Ritchie, English Media Director
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