|Chinese officials raid a house church.
(Changji, Xinjiang—April 25, 2017) In a move that a defense attorney termed harsh, five Christians in China’s northwestern Xinjiang were jailed for 3-5 years on April 18 for participating in the planning of a Bible study.
On April 18, a court in Changji, Xinjiang, sentenced Christians Yang Zhaocun and Wang Lulu to five years in prison, Cheng Yajie to four years, and Liu Yan and Zheng Lan to three years. Officials tried the defendants last October on charges of illegal assembly and “gathering a crowd to disturb public order,” after they held a private Christian event at Zheng Lan’s home. The court did not notify the defense lawyers of the court’s verdict.
One defense attorney said, “The judges wrongfully determined the nature of the case, and the sentences were unreasonably harsh. How can private gatherings disrupt public order? The public security bureau exceeded its authority and crossed a line.”
During the trial, Wang and Cheng admitted that they participated in an “illegal assembly,” and Zheng confessed to hosting so-called “illegal religious activities.”
Their supposed crimes stem from a gathering of more than 50 Christians at Zheng’s home on March 5, 2016, where the congregants studied the Bible and listened to sermons. According to a government document, Yang and Liu were responsible for researching potential meeting places and transporting the meeting’s attendees, activities which make them accessories to crime, while the others were labeled primary criminals. When authorities raided the gathering, Yang, Zheng, Cheng, and Wang were taken into custody, while Liu was seized at her home.
All of the defendants plead innocent, and all are planning to appeal.
ChinaAid exposes abuses such as those experienced by Yang Zhaocun, Liu Yan, Wang Lulu, Zheng Lan, and Cheng Yajie in order to stand in solidarity with persecuted Christians and promote religious freedom, human rights, and rule of law.