(Photo from Nanle County
China Aid Association
(Corrections made on Sept. 8.)
Zhao Junling, a missionary at Nanle County Christian Church who was detained on Nov. 15, 2014, while traveling back from petitioning higher authorities in Beijing over a land dispute between the Nanle County Christian Church and the Nanle County authorities, was released on bail pending trial on Aug. 23.
China Aid previously reported that none of the Christians made it to Beijing to petition the authorities; however, that is incorrect. The congregation split into multiple groups in order to reach Beijing without being impeded by local police, and several groups, including Zhao’s, were successful. It was as the groups were returning from Beijing that official began detaining the Christians, which resulted in more than 20 believers behind bars.
“[An official] said a pre-hearing meeting would be held the next day and that Zhang Cuijuan will also be there,” Zhao told China Aid on Aug. 26. “Zhang Cuijuan is still in the [detention center]. We will face indictment.” Zhao and Zhang Cuijuan, a younger sister of Pastor Zhang Shaojie, are both charged with “gathering a crowd to disrupt public order.”
“They took us into their custody on suspicion of disrupting public order and interfering with official duties,” Zhao said. “It was around Nov. 14 that we were taken into the temporary detention center, and we were transferred to the detention center on Nov. 17.
“While we were detained in the public security bureau, they mainly asked us questions about a family planning issue back in 2010. Another sister [Li Cairen] bought insurance. When something happened, the insurance company refused to pay. So [the church] went to them. [The authorities] said that was us disrupting public order. Another incident was when we came back from the petition [in Beijing]; we met up with another group at the highway intersection. Then, [officials] accused us of interfering with the performance of official duties,” Zhao said. Zhao’s mention of Li Cairen is in reference to a work-place accident, which took the life of her only son; her son’s employer refused to compensate Li, and the church helped negotiate a settlement.
“They asked us why we went to petition the higher authorities, what happened after we petitioned the higher authorities, and who let us go there,” Zhao said of interrogations during his time in detention.
“In the pre-hearing meeting, arrangements were made for the judge, clerk and people who will appear in court,” Zhao said. “As for the specifics, they will be decided on Sept. 2 when the court opens. Here, we mainly talked about the issues concerning the procedures.
Zhao said that both he and Zhang Cuijuan weren’t allowed to make corrections to the written records taken from them by police when they were initially detained. “When the police interrogated us, there were some errors in their written record. Today, they didn’t let us explain. Both Zhang Cuijuan and I put forward this question,” Zhao said.
Liu Peifu, a Beijing lawyer hired by Zhao and Zhang Cuijuan to represent them both attended the meeting with them and advocated for their opinions on the procedures of the case. Liu told China Aid that Zhang Cuijuan’s condition is OK despite nine months of arbitrary detention.
(Photo from Nanle County Christian
“On the day my father was taken into custody, [Nov. 16, 2013], my aunt [Zhang Cuijuan] went to the Nanle County Public Security Bureau to inquire after hearing the news of his detention,” Zhang “Shanshan” Lingxin, one of Pastor Zhang Shaojie’s daughters, said. “They indiscriminately took my aunt into custody, saying they would detain her for 15 days on the charge of disrupting the public order. At the time, another aunt was also taken into custody. Fifteen days later, my other aunt was released, but Zhang Cuijuan was transferred to the Puyang Municipal Detention Center.
“Government officials… said that if we dismiss the lawyers and plead guilty, they can sentence us to three years in prison with a reprieve of five years, and they can release the detainees. However, my aunt said she is innocent and would never plead guilty,” Shanshan said.
Local believers told China Aid that 36-year-old Zhang Cuijuan has helped many vulnerable families in the area, including helping at Nanle County Christian Church’s orphanage by leading activities and taking an interest in the children’s health.
Zhao also told China Aid that conditions in the detention center were less than favorable. “In their facility… every day I drank a small bowl of soup plus two steamed buns. The buns were as big as an egg, and they were dark and dirty.”
Bob Fu, President
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