(Kunming, Yunnan—Feb. 6, 2017) Nine unlawfully detained Christians were released on bail prior to the Lunar New Year as their lawyers challenge the legality of their detention.
On Nov. 26, 12 Christians were taken into police custody, where four were released soon afterward, but eight received criminal detention sentences for “using a cult organization to undermine the implementation of the law.” Of these eight, four went free on bail.
Around this time another Christian was detained and freed.
After the 30-day detention limit was up, the police station applied to the Procuratorate for permission to arrest the 12 Christians. However, eight lawyers jointly appealed to protest the arrest, and only four people were arrested.
Human rights lawyer Li Guisheng, who is representing one of the detained Christians, attested that the government openly admitted that the Christians had “not done much harm to society” and did not have enough evidence to detain the church members, resulting in their release. He said the government’s initial suspicions likely arose because the Christians were members of the Local Church, a branch of Christianity developed by Watchman Nee and promoted by Witness Lee. Although the government suspects this denomination is a cult, many Christians consider it non-heretical.
In fact, Li and seven other lawyers representing the defendants condemned Article 300 of the Criminal Law of the People’s Republic of China, which identifies cult activities as a danger to the state for lacking legal basis, and said that the Local Church, as a Christian sect, does not violate any laws.
China Aid exposes abuses, such as those experienced by the unlawfully detained church members, in order to stand in solidarity with persecuted Christians and promote religious freedom, human rights, and rule of law in China.