Pastor Zhang Shaojie, of Nanle County Christian Church in China’s central Henan, is currently serving a 12-year prison term for “gathering a crowd to disrupt the public order” and a fabricated fraud charge.
He was initially detained on Nov. 16, 2013, when authorities asked to meet with him at his church. Instead, authorities bound Zhang, who served as the local head of the China Christian Council and Three-Self Patriotic Movement, and took him into custody.
Authorities detained more than 20 church members, spanning from the day before Zhang’s detention to several days after his detention. The cause of the persecution is said to be a land dispute between the Nanle County government and the church, about which the church sent several groups to Beijing to petition higher authorities there after being unsatisfied with the outcome at the local level.
Heavy persecution of the church continued well into the summer of 2014. On July 4, 2014, Zhang was sentenced to 12 years in prison for his charges despite his lawyers’ arguments, which included the fact that police had essentially kidnapped the alleged victim of Zhang’s fraud case.
On Aug. 21, the Puyang Intermediate People’s Court rejected Zhang’s final appeal, leaving him with almost no chance of justice. His lawyers’ had repeatedly asked for a different court to hear the appeal due to the clear corruption of the Puyang Intermediate People’s Court to no avail.
Zhang was 49 years old at the time of his detention. Pastor Zhang Shaojie was transferred to Xinmi City Prison in Henan Province in January 2021. After hearing nothing for several months, Zhang Shaojie’s family received a letter from him. He informed them that he was in good spirits, and officials have allowed him to see his family once a month.