House Churches in the Aletai Area Invited to Participate in a Christian Lawyer’s Legal Seminar

China Aid Association           July 10  2013

Xinhe Tang is a brother from Beitun Church in the Aletai area of Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region. Because he held worship services at his home, the local police confiscated all the church’s properties.

Brother Tang heard that a Christian human rights lawyer had just arrived in Beijing, and he hoped to invite the lawyer to Aletai to help them. He wanted to know how to get back the church’s properties that were taken away by the police. In May 2013, the lawyer made a special trip to Aletai after finishing his case in Yili. Brother Tang said that their church has often been harassed by local police. Members of the church all wanted to know how to defend their rights by legal means and to learn more about their protection under the law.

Many brothers and sisters who know brother Tang and who come from the churches near the Beitun area, such as Jimunai, Buerjing, and Fuhai counties, also heard about the lawyer’s coming to offer a seminar for the church people in the Beitun area. They hoped to invite him to lecture at their own churches, but because of the long distance between counties in Xinjiang Province, the lawyer did not have enough time to do so. Perhaps he will be able to in the future. At any rate, each church in the neighboring counties sent out representatives to listen to the lawyer’s speech about important legal issues.

The next morning all the seminar participants convened at brother Tang’s home. Among them were ethnically-Kazak Christian believers.

The lecture lasted three hours. The lawyer began by presenting some important legal regulations concerning human rights defense and closed the lecture by answering questions regarding persecution raised by the participants. One issue included frequent threats against church members that would prevent their children, if they joined the church, from attending college or allowing them to travel overseas. Also, some sisters had lost their low-cost insurance benefits because of their involvement in the Christian ministry. Kazaks were warned not to believe in Jesus. Christian-friendly families were often harassed and banned from holding worship services; even some of their relatives who were non-believers were assaulted. Christian banners and signs on the wall had been torn into pieces, and church members were prohibited from replacing them on the walls. Retired old people were threatened with suspension of their retirement pensions if they continued to join the worship services. Communist members were flatly prohibited from attending church services.

While the seminar was in session, they discovered that local police officials were patrolling in the vicinity of the church, but they did not interrupt the church meeting. After the seminar all participants exhibited their supportive attitude towards using legal means to defend their rights to freedom of religion. They learned, if necessary, how to appeal for administrative reconsideration when charged with illegal acts.

In fact, Brother Tang submitted a request for administrative reconsideration to a higher police department. Shortly after the submission, the local police department agreed to settle the charges out of court with the church and eventually returned the church’s properties. Brothers and sisters of the church have come to know that, whenever their legal rights are violated, they should protect themselves by legal means.

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Rachel Ritchie, English Media Director
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