China Court Sentences Christians To Long Prison Sentences

Monday, January 15, 2007

By BosNewsLife News Center

BEIJING, CHINA (BosNewsLife) -- Details emerged Monday, January 15, of long prison sentences given to eight Chinese Christians on charges that included inciting "violent resistance" against the destruction of a church.

The People's Court of Xiaoshan District in Zhejiang province sentenced the believers late December 22 following what human rights watchers described as "an almost 12-hour marathon pre-Christmas trial."

Seven men and one woman were arrested after about 3,000 Christians in Xiaoshan, a prospering commercial suburb of the provincial capital Hangzhou, demonstrated against the demolition of their mega-church in July.

Xiaoshan is home to tens of thousands of Protestant Christians, many of them traders or farmers wary of state control, church observers said. In recent years, they have apparently struggled with the government over approval to build their own churches.


In transcripts obtained by BosNewsLife, the court sentenced Pastor Shen Zhuke, to 3.6 years in prison for "the crime of inciting to resist the carrying out of the law by violence." The period was to run from August 5, 2006, when he was taken into custody, to February 4, 2010.

Her father, 75-year-old Church Elder Shen Chengyi fell on the ground and lost his cnsciousness during the trial where the ruling was announced, trial observers said.

Other church members receiving three years imprisonment on similar charges included Shen Chengyi and Wang Weiliang, court documents showed. Those jailed for two years were identified as Feng Guang Liang, and Ni Weimin, who was sentenced with a "reprieve probation period" for two years, starting from the date of the sentence announcement.

Guo Lijun and Shen Jianjian were sentenced to one-year imprisonment, "with a reprieve of 2 years" while Luo Bingliang sentenced to a fix-term imprisonment of 1 year, without probation, the court said.


The court rejected lawyers arguments that there was no evidence their clients were involved in incitement. A local journalist reportedly said the Christians were put on trial mainly because they are church leaders wielding widespread influence among congregations.

At least 20 people were know to be injured in the clash between 500 officers and 3,000 protesters in Xiaoshan district, with some speaking of "hundreds injured." Independent church watchers said it appeared to be one of the largest recent confrontations between police and members of an underground Chinese church.

State controlled media said at least 10 government employees were also injured. Members of the country's numerous underground house churches and other religious groups are frequently jailed and harassed, investigators say.

The church in Xiaoshan was a particularly large structure that stood near government buildings, thus attracting the ire of officials. The demolition order apparently came after orders in June from the provincial government and religious affairs bureau to crack down on illegal religious buildings, local Christians said.

It was not immediately clear when and if all Christians would wile an appeal against the court sentence. (With BosNewsLife reporting and BosNewsLife Research).

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