Jan 14, 2002
By Staff of the Baptist Press
WASHINGTON (BP)--Two Christians have been killed in the Chinese government's crackdown on pastor Gong Shengliang and his South China Church in central Hubei Province, according to a letter from members of the underground church revealing graphic details and new information about the persecution.
Gong was sentenced to death Dec. 5 on charges of operating an "evil cult" and on the seemingly trumped-up charges of rape and assault. The month-long period for deciding his appeal was extended Jan. 5 by a Hubei court following sharp international protest.
The letter, written by two underground Christian women, Li Ailian and Wang Yue, reports that in efforts to find and apprehend Gong and suppress the South China Church, police arrested and severely beat at least 25 Christians, killing two of them, while torturing others with electric prods.
The letter was dated Dec. 31 and smuggled to the New York-based Committee for Investigation on Persecution of Religion in China. It was released Jan. 11 by Freedom House in Washington.
The two victims who reportedly died were:
-- Yu Zhongju, a young mother from Zhongxiang who was arrested May 27 in a private house connected with Gong's congregation. She died in police custody in late July, allegedly as a result of torture. According to her family, police informed them of Yu's death July 20, after her body had begun to decompose. The police paid the family, warning them not to raise the matter further. There has been no official investigation of the case.
-- Gu Xuegui, a Christian man also connected with Gong's church, who disappeared while in police custody, probably sometime in October. A congregant from Puyang City in Henan Province last saw Gu in a prison vehicle with his face showing signs of beatings. His family later received information that he had died under severe torture.
The letter also provides details about two women, Li Tongjin and Chi Tongyuan, from Shayang, who were arrested and tortured by police with electric prods, resulting in blisters and burns all over their bodies. The torture was reported to have been used to force them to testify that they had sexual relations with Gong. One woman was later able to telephone her brother and report her situation, saying, "... be ready to come to pick up my body. I might either be beaten to death or sentenced to death."
The letter reports numerous other cases from May through December of brutal police beatings of the congregants. It states that Gong himself was apprehended by police on Aug. 8 and was kicked and beaten by government security forces.
In a separate communication from the South China Church, Freedom House obtained the names of 63 men and women of the church who were arrested between May and December in Hubei, Henan, Hebei and Sichuan provinces.
The South China Church is known within the Chinese underground Christian community and to churches in the United States. Li Guangqiang, a Hong Kong resident, was also recently issued an "evil cult" indictment, possibly carrying the death penalty, by a Fujian court, for smuggling 33,000 bibles into China.
The names of the detainees from the South China Church congregation and the Dec. 31 letter are available on the Center for Religious Freedom website at: www.freedomhouse.org.
Bapist Press. Used with Permission.