By Worthy News Asia Service with Worthy News' Stefan J. Bos
BEIJING, CHINA (Worthy News) -- A well-known house church pastor in China's Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region remained behind bars Monday, March 9, despite a court ruling saying there was "insufficient evidence" to hold him, Christians said.
The case of Pastor Lou Yuanqi was sent back by the prosecutor to the Public Security Bureau (PSB), China's main law enforcement agency, added advocacy group China Aid Association (CAA), which closely monitored the trial.
Pastor Lou reportedly stood trial on December 15, last year on charges of "utilizing superstition to undermine the law." Local Christians said the real reason for the charge was Lou’s house church activities and an attempt to halt meetings in his home.
A local court apparently agreed. "The facts used in the case are not clear, the evidence is insufficient," a statement said. During Lou’s trial, the presiding judge "acknowledged the persecution in Xinjiang," Chinese Christians said.
"If the Christians have more religious freedom in areas outside Xinjiang, they should consider leaving Xinjiang because Xinjiang is special," he was quoted as saying.
Yet, despite the ruling, Pastor Lou continues to be imprisoned, CAA told Worthy News.
In addition Lou’s daughter Lou Tiantian, 18, was beaten by court police when she tried to speak with her father while being put into a police car, according to video footage released by CAA. Lou Tiantian was taken to the hospital where she received medical treatment, before being released the same night, Christians said.
The troubles began for Pastor Lou on May 17, 2008, when he was first detained on May 17 in Qingshuihe town of Huocheng county of Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, witnesses said. The same day, Pastor Lou was transferred to Huocheng County Detention Center, adding to concerns over his health, according to CAA investigators. "Pastor Lou suffers from hepatitis B and the harsh prison conditions worsen his health," CAA added.
Despite difficulties, Pastor Lou’s wife, Wang Wenxiu, his children and church continue to meet. When said in a statement released by friends she was encouraged that "Christians around the world were praying" for her family. "This [imprisonment of Pastor Lou] is God's best will. It is His promise. It is the grace of the Lord. How could we be worthy of awakening so many brothers and sisters’ prayers for us?," she reportedly said.
"The Cross of Jesus encourages us to move forward. I am very joyful and full of gratitude for all of the prayer support.”
It comes at a time when rights groups say China's Communist government has stepped up a crackdown on house churches, amid concerns among party officials over the spread of Christianity outside the state controlled churches. There are an estimated 130 million Christians in China, Chinese officials have said privately. The Chinese government has denied rights abuses.
CAA said it had asked its supporters to "write an encouraging letter to Pastor Lou Yuanqi in prison". The address was identified as Pastor Lou Yuanqi, Huocheng County Detention Center, Yili City, Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, China.