Chinese church leaders released after international pressure

Saturday, September 6, 2003

Voice of the Martyrs (September 6, 2003) -- Three Chinese church leaders incarcerated since July 13 were released after international pressure mounted due to publicity of their case.

Qi Xian-Fa was released from the Kai Yuan Cheng Shi Hotel on August 18 and Gao Chong-Dao on August 25. Shen Shao-Cheng, one of the church’s founders who is more than 80 years old, was the last of the leaders released, on August 27. Each of them was released to village officials from their home area, who took them home.

The release comes after the case became internationally known, including the publication by VOM of the fax number at the hotel where the Christians were being held.

In a phone interview with a VOM representative, Gao said the six church leaders were kept together in the days after their arrest in Xiao Shan City, Zhejiang Province. For five days they were subjected to repeated interrogation and so-called “political study”—brainwashing attempts. On the sixth day they were put into separate hotel rooms and each was assigned two officials from the Religious Affairs Bureau and Public Security Bureau respectively, which were with them 24 hours a day. Each day there was more interrogation as authorities pressured the church leaders to bring their church under state control.

When asked why the men were released, Gao said, “It was very clear that there was outside pressure [on our behalf].”

Three of the Christians were released the week of August 18, told to go to their congregations and convince them to come under the control of the Religious Affairs Bureau. At that time, Gao, Qi and Shen were moved to another hotel as the government tried to keep their treatment from becoming known outside China.

“The Chinese government never expected to raise international attention with this case,” said VOM spokesman Todd Nettleton. “This shows what Christians in the US can do when we take action on behalf of our brothers and sisters in China.”

The church leaders who have been released know that they are being watched, said Gao, and the threat of re-arrest is constant.

“Pray for these Chinese Christians,” said Nettleton. “This chapter has ended for them, but the pressure they face will be intense. The Chinese government has a long memory, and wants every religious meeting to be registered.”