China Aid Association
|Xia Jun stands outside the Nanle County
Public Security Bureau, holding a cloth
lantern, which reads “Looking for Zhang
Shaojie” on Nov. 23. (Photo: Sina Weibo)
(Nanle, Henan—Nov. 27, 2013) Lawyers representing the pastor and 23 other members of Nanle County Christian Church, who were detained by Nanle county officials more than a week ago, have yet to meet with the detainees.
ChinaAid previously reported on the detainment of Pastor Zhang Shaojie and other church members, the official count of whom currently stands at 23 (https://chinaaid.org/2013/11/three-self-sanctioned-church-pastor-and.html, https://chinaaid.org/2013/11/update-three-self-sanctioned-church.html).
Xia Jun, the lawyer hired by the church to fight for the freedom of the detainees, attempted to meet with his clients on Nov. 20, but was deterred through a series of events involving the Nanle County Public Security Bureau and the Nanle County Domestic Security Protection Squad (https://chinaaid.org/2013/11/update-lawyers-for-nanle-county.html). Xia and his associate resolved to meet with their clients on Thursday.
Thursday afternoon, Xia and Yang Xingquan, a Beijing lawyer who arrived as part of the delegation that was formed to defend the church members, set out to begin visiting the various detainees.
When the two lawyers arrived at the detention center where church member Yan Beibei is detained, they contacted the director, who approved their visit, before trying to enter. However, when Xia and Yang began the process of visiting Yan, officers said that to see a detainee, one must get approval from the police officer in charge of the case.
After arguing about their legal right to meet with their client, the lawyers were able to get the officers to agree to let them meet with Yan after 8:30 a.m. the following day.
When Xia and Yang returned to the detention center on Friday, officers told the lawyers that there was a power outage and no visitors were being allowed in at that time.
“Looking for Pastor Zhang Shaojie”
Xia said he realized the only way to make the Nanle County Public Security Bureau pay attention to the case was to take drastic measures. Xia had a cloth lantern made, bearing the words “Looking for Pastor Zhang Shaojie,” which he held as he stood outside the gate of the Public Security Bureau building. Xia said that when people approached, he would ask them if they knew where Zhang was.
Xia reported that a large crowd gathered around him and that traffic was blocked for a period of time. Around 11 a.m., officers from the Public Security Bureau took Xia to the office where prisoner communication is handled.
There, Xia was accused of disrupting social order. Despite the ever-increasing number of church members and fellow lawyers, who had begun gathering at the building’s gate when Xia was taken, officers refused to allow Xia to leave for lunch or to have lunch brought to him until 4 p.m., when church members were able to buy him dumplings.
Sometime after Xia was allowed to eat, the Nanle County Public Security Bureau director and secretary, who identified themselves only as Liu and Xu, came to speak with Xia. Xia said he confronted them about many of the mismanaged procedures, including the lack of notice given to the families of the detainees. Liu and Xu claimed that detention notices had been sent to the families via the post office.
After Xia demanded that the agency conduct its business according to the law, the two leaders agreed to let him meet with his client in the coming week, he said.
Xia was allowed to leave at 8 p.m. that evening. In a meeting with the delegation of lawyers, it was concluded that many people in the region weren’t informed about their rights and decided to conduct a class after worship on Sunday to teach the believers how to guard their rights.
On Saturday, the Political Consultative Committee of Nanle County issued a public notice disqualifying Zhang Shaojie as a member of the committee. Because of this notice, the lawyers fear that officials intend to criminally detain the Christians, which is the first step in the arrest process.
Disruption at the church
When believers began arriving at the church on Sunday, they found their way blocked by approximately 200 people from the Nanle County Public Security Bureau, Religious Affairs Bureau, Justice Bureau, Ministry for United Front Work and other branches of local government.
Church members reported that about 150 believers were able to get around the officials and into the church to pray for Zhang and the other believers who had been detained.
The church sang hymns, led by one of Zhang’s daughters. After the hymns, another of Zhang’s daughters, Zhang Shanshan, showed pictures of each detained Christian through a projector at the front of the church. Believers reported that a plainclothes officer pulled the projector’s plug during the presentation, leading Zhang Shanshan to question the officer’s authority.
After the service, Xia and Li Jinglin, another lawyer from the delegation, arrived to give the law lecture as previously planned. ChinaAid learned that the lawyers had informed relevant government agencies of their plan beforehand, and even invited government officials to attend the class.
Instead of allowing Xia and Li to teach the class, government officials surrounded the two at the church gate, blocking their access. The two said they asked officials what law prevented them from delivering a lecture about law to church members. In response, the officials only looked at each other, the lawyers said.
Upon trying to force their way in the church, church members joined the lawyers in trying to reason with the officials. Church members reported that the scene turned violent for a time, with church members being shoved and grabbed by the hair.
Given the potential consequences, the lawyers agreed to leave the church, but officials tried to prevent them from leaving. Church members positioned themselves between the officials and the lawyers, allowing Xia and Li to exit.
Church members reported doing the same to allow some street journalists, who had come to report on the incident, to escape the officials.
Meeting with the clients
Xia and Li attempted to meet with Yan Beibei again on Monday, according to the meeting they had arranged with the Public Security Bureau’s director and secretary, Liu and Xu. Xia and Li made a point of going to the prisoner communication center to request that Liu and Xu fulfill the promised arrangement. However, the officer in charge told the lawyers that Liu and Xu were too busy to see them.
The lawyers told police that meeting with their client is a legal right, which has nothing to do with whether the leaders are available. The lawyers also said that since they couldn’t meet with the two leaders, they would go directly to the detention center to meet with their client.
When the two lawyers arrived at the detention center and displayed their identification papers, the officer on duty wouldn’t allow them to enter, citing another power outage as the cause.
Li filed a complaint against the prisoner communication center with the center’s supervisory departments.
ChinaAid calls on Christians worldwide to pray for the detained believers and their families, as many still have no word on their loved ones whereabouts. We also call on the Nanle county government to reverse these wrongs and immediately release these belivers.
In addition, it is disconcerting that, despite recent changes adopted at the Third Plenum, which abolished re-education through labor, a form of extra-judicial detainment, the Nanle county government insists on detaining these Christians without legal justification. This is a trend worth our attention.
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