|Tu Yan, one of the Christians
rounded up in a crackdown
against the “Three Grades of
Servants” sect, sits handcuffed
behind bars. She has been
wrongly imprisoned without
trial for more than a year.
Take action! Help free these Christians!
(Lincang, Yunnan—Feb. 14, 2018) Several Christians in China’s southern Yunnan province are appealing their cases after being sentenced to years in prison on false charges of cult involvement.
On Dec. 28, 2017, six Christians were given sentences ranging from four to 13 years in prison, all accused of being members of the “Three Grades of Servants,” a religious sect which the Chinese government regards as a cult. The six Christians—Ju Dianhong, Liang Qin, Zhang Hongyan, Zi Huimei, Yang Shunxiang, and Zhang Shaocai—were also fined between 10,000 to 150,000 yuan ($1,600 to $23,700 USD).
The Yunnan provincial government authorized a campaign to suppress this group in March 2016, but dozens Christians unaffiliated with the group have also been detained and sentenced under charges of cult crimes.
Two of these Christians, Ju Dianhong and Liang Qin, who received 13 and 10 year sentences, respectively, have successfully called for an appeal of their case and entered a second instance of trial. Additionally, all six of those sentenced are in the process of appealing the verdicts.
Ju’s lawyer, Xiao Yunyang, visited the detention center on Feb. 9 as part of the appeal process. In an interview, he said that Ju had written her own defense statement and was in good spirits.
“Ju Dianhong’s mental state is very good, for the first instance court’s sentence of 13 years imprisonment,” Xiao told reporters. “Even if the second instance court upholds the original verdict, she will be at peace with it, as she said these are God’s arrangements. If she really must go to prison, she will accept it.”
The original verdict claimed that Ju was the leader of an “evil cult” and that Liang was her assistant. They were also accused of organizing secret meetings, spreading doomsday predictions, and building a secret organization in the “three-class servant” fashion from which the Three Grades of Servants derives its name.
In her defense, Ju wrote that although the verdict accused her of being a cult member, she had never heard of this group and did not know what it meant to be “a servant of the three classes.” She is a Christian, believes in Jesus Christ, and preaches only the Gospel. Additionally, she claims that her actions have not violated the principles of the Bible and have done no harm to others or to society.
Reportedly, Ju was very upset about the verdict and refused to sign, but she is now hopeful that the appeal process is the best way to proceed. Liang, sentenced to 10 years in prison, was also greatly disheartened by the harsh sentence, according to her lawyer, Li Guisheng. Liang also submitted her own defense and petition for appeal.
Liang, a 30-year-old native of Sichuan, defended her innocence in court as well. “I do not know what that cult is, and I do not know or participate in the Three Grades of Servants faction. I believe in Jesus. I did not cause any harm to the community and did nothing that would constitute a crime.”
Her legal counsel argued that she had not violated any laws or regulations or undermined the law in any way. Her preaching was nothing more than a normal Christian activity, wholly unaffiliated with the Three Grades of Servants. The books which the prosecution used as evidence of her cult involvement can be bought in many bookstores and are published by authorized presses.
Xiao and Li have stated that they will continue to defend Ju and Liang as their cases move into the trial of the second instance. They have another meeting with their clients scheduled for Thursday, Feb. 15, the day before the Lunar New Year.
ChinaAid reports on the cases of wrongfully accused and imprisoned Christians, such as Ju Dianhong and Liang Qin, as well as the other cult-accused Christians in Yunnan, in order to raise awareness for their cases and promote religious freedom, human rights, and rule of law. If you would like to aid these Christians, please consider signing the petition for their release, as well as sharing the story on social media.