China Releases More House Church Leaders From Labor Camp

Thursday, January 24, 2008

By BosNewsLife Asia Service

BEIJING, CHINA (BosNewsLife)-- China on Wednesday, January 23, released three female house church leaders "unconditionally" from their labor camp in Hubei province, in what their supporters described as "another legal stunning victory."

They were part of a group of five detained women identified as Qin Daomin, 33, and her 40-year-old biological sister Qin Daofang, as well as Ren Xianxue, 35, Hu Rong, 42, and Li Mei, 42. Two of them, whose names were not immediately clear, were earlier released but have been held under house arrest, BosNewsLife learned.

The decision by senior government officials to release the women came after on January 11, four male house church leaders held at another labor camp in Hubei were also set free, said advocacy group China Aid Association (CAA) in a statement to BosNewsLife. "CAA was told that the director of the Hubei labor camp made a formal apology to the house church leaders for their wrongful imprisonment."

The men and women were detained and sentenced in August last year to 18 months and 12 months "re-education through labor" respectively, after they were found having a Sunday worship service in a Christian home. Authorities accused the group of "engaging in organizing and making use of an evil undermine the enforcement of State laws.” CAA told BosNewsLife it had hired attorney Wu Chenglian from Beijing, who was successful in his effort to overturn the ruling for the church leaders.


"Furthermore, the director [of the labor camp] went on to state that he and other officials had learned their lesson and would seek to do a better job in the future," said CAA, citing sources close to the case. Former house church pastor and current CAA President Bob Fu told BosNewsLife in a statement that he was pleased with the decision.
"The Chinese house church is deeply committed to helping China realize the goal of becoming a harmonious society. The released leaders expressed their gratitude to the labor camp officials for their willingness to discern true Christianity from common criminality and for setting a remarkable precedent of progression towards true religious freedom and rule of law in China." The leaders "are also thankful to the international community for their efforts and prayers during this time," he added.

China has been under international pressure to improve political and religious rights ahead of the Beijing Olympic Games later this year. The Communist authorities have cracked down on house churches, as they are held outside the government-backed denominations. (With Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent BosNewsLife).

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