Entrance to a “black jail” in Henan
Province. (Photo: China Aid)
Reported and written in Chinese by Qiao Nong. Translated by Carolyn Song. Written in English by Ava Collins.
(Wenzhou, Zhejiang—Oct. 29, 2015) Authorities placed at least 20 Christians under residential surveillance in China’s coastal Zhejiang province over the past two months.
In China, “residential surveillance in a designated location,” also known as holding in “black jails,” is a more severe form of holding than “criminal detention.” Individuals under residential surveillance are held in undisclosed locations and are unable to speak with family or legal representation.
Two Zhejiang cities in particular, Wenzhou and Jinhua, have had more than 20 people placed under surveillance between Aug. 25 and Oct. 24 based on to preliminary statistics, according to an anonymous Christian in Zhejiang. The source noted that the names of those detained in Jinhua have not been released and believed that the number was likely more than the 20 currently known.
Zhejiang has experienced widespread persecution since early last year, as authorities demolished churches and removed more than 1,500 crosses.
“After a year, the cross demolitions had mostly finished,” a Christian surnamed Wen said. “Then came the persecution, as pastors were caught and are still unreleased. The officials are becoming more arrogant and more powerful. The thing we need most is to have people who will step up to stop these kinds of things from happening. These people, can we fight for their release?”
According to church members in Zhejiang, those under residential surveillance in Wenzhou include Elder Wang Xianyun and Pastor Yan Xiaojie in Longwan District, Elder Zhou Aiping in Lucheng District, Pastor Huang Yizi and Pastor Zhang Chongzhu in Pingyang County, Deacon Zhang Zhi. Others taken into custody include some of the legal counsel for the local churches, including prominent human rights lawyer Zhang Kai and his two assistants Liu Peng and Fang Xiangui.
“Where are these people? We don’t know, and now most of them have been placed under residential surveillance now instead of criminal detention,” A Wenzhou Christian said. “This is entirely outside the law. These are the actions of totalitarian regimes.”
For many of those held, the justification for the residential surveillance is on “suspicion of stealing, spying, buying and illegally providing state secrets and intelligence.” Because this charge involves national security, authorities refused to let lawyers speak with those in surveillance.