This summer, while the whole world witnessed the atrocities of the Islamic State in Iraq (ISIS) against our fellow Christians and other minorities in Middle East, less people were aware that a campaign against Christians in China is gaining momentum.
We have received requests for help from multiple prisoners and family of prisoners in latest crackdown in Cao County, Shandong, where 14 were arrested and 28 believers are in need of lawyers, and Shaoyang, Hunan, where more than 12 house church Christians were taken into custody and 10 of those believers require legal help. All of the persecuted are dedicated house church Christians who are being charged simply for worshipping God in their own homes.
Then there is the news about our dear friend, lawyer Gao Zhisheng. We praise the Lord for His answers to our prayers; Gao was released on Aug 7. However, after the Chinese authorities released Gao, we learned the following information from his wife, Geng He:
• Gao is now staying with his sister-in-law in Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region.
• He is under round-the-clock surveillance by Chinese security officials.
• From the time of Gao was transported to Shaya Prison in Xinjiang until his release, he was kept in a small cell with minimal light.
• During his time in Shaya Prison, guards were strictly forbidden to talk to Gao, and he was not allowed any reading materials, television viewing, or access to any type of intellectual stimulation.
• Gao was released from prison weighing about 130 pounds after entering prison at 180 pounds as a result of eating meals of one slice of bread and one piece of cabbage once a day.
• In addition to losing approximately 50 pounds, Gao’s lack of nutrition caused him to lose many teeth.
• Gao is believed to have been physically tortured in prison.
At this time, Gao can barely speak—and only in short sentence when he does. Most of the time, he mutters and is unintelligible. It is believed Gao is suffering from a broad range of physical and mental health problems. And, he has not been allowed to see a doctor since his release!
This is really heart-wrenching news. I still remember in late January 2009, when I talked to Gao via phone from a dark hotel room in Bangkok where I met his wife and two terrified kids, who were hiding after their escape from China, he told me he’d like me to secure freedom in the United States for his family. I asked him whether he would like to come out of China, too. He said he was choosing to stay to continue the fight for others’ freedom. That was probably my last conversation with my friend before he vanished again for more than five years, only to be granted this terrible “freedom” in August.
In the Nanle County Christian Church case, another church leader named Zhao Junling was released on Aug. 24, and Pastor Zhang Shaojie’s second appeal was rejected during a secret trial on Aug. 22. So far, one other church leader is still in detention and two church members are being held in an extrajudicial black jail.
According to the worldly standard, there is bad news mixed with some good news. But to Christians, the reality is that there is no such thing as bad news because we know that “all things work together for GOOD to them that love God, to them who are called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28).
After Zhao Junling was released from more than 10 months of arbitrary detention and abuse, he sent the following message via the Internet: “I am Junling. Since I was released from the hands of the devil, I have been cleansed into the love of God. I have been meeting nonstop with visiting brothers and sisters, one group after another. Hearing what our living God has been doing among our church, I shed many more tears of gratitude and thanksgiving than any sorrow of my own suffereing.”
Let’s work harder for Gao’s true freedom so that he can share with us one day and reunite with his family stateside, especially since he may no longer have the ability to make a choice.
Henan court rejects pastor’s final appeal
|Zhang Cuijuan is shown hugging her
husband as best as she can while hand-
cuffed. Zhang was out of the detention
center to attend a pre-trial meeting
on Aug. 27.
Persecution continues against the Nanle County Christian Church. The Puyang Intermediate People’s Court in China’s central Henan rejected the final appeal in the case of Nanle County Christian Church’s pastor Zhang Shaojie on Aug. 21.
Two days after Zhang Shaojie’s appeal was rejected, one of the four other remaining detainees Zhao Junling was released on bail pending trial. He and Zhang Cuijuan,another detained Christian and Pastor Zhang’s younger sister, learned on Aug. 26 that their joint trial would begin in early September.
The three were initially detained in November 2013, along with more than 20 fellow Nanle County Christian Church members. Since that time, many of the other believers have been released.
Li Fangping, one of Zhang Shaojie’s attorneys, confirmed that he received a phone call from Judge Ma, who presided over the case, saying that the original verdict was being upheld. Ma told Li on Aug. 21 that the second verdict had already been sent to Zhang.
This decision came despite Li’s official request that the Henan Provincial People’s Court appoint a third court to conduct the second appeal trial for Zhang’s case because the “Puyang Intermediate Court is already disqualified for its mishandling of the first trial,” Li told China Aid. Li’s request, made on Aug. 1, was never acknowledged.
“The only other procedure left to file is a judicial review,” said China Aid founder and president Bob Fu.
“By issuing a verdict in a hastily-arranged, secret mock-trial against Pastor Zhang Shaojie, Henan authorities have delivered a new low for the rule of law in China,” Fu said. “The continuing harassment and persecution against Pastor Zhang’s family members and his church members shows the total disregard of religious freedom. We urge the Chinese authorities to immediately and unconditionally release Pastor Zhang and the other arrested church leader and restore the church’s normal worship and other services.”
Zhao was released on bail pending trial on Aug. 23. His trial with Zhang Cuijuan is set to begin Sept. 2, according to information learned in a pre-trial meeting on Aug. 27.