Chinese Court Seeks Advice in Case Against Zhang Rongliang

Saturday, April 15, 2006

‘Insufficient evidence’ against major house church leader cited in request.
by Timothy Chow

BEIJING, April 13 (Compass Direct) -- The court judging house church leader Zhang Rongliang, acknowledging that "there are insufficient evidence and ambiguous facts," this week submitted the case to the Zhengzhou City Intermediate People’s Court asking for legal advice.

The Zhongmu City People’s Court made the request after a two-hour court hearing on April 6 in which Zhang, charged with falsifying a passport, argued his right for a passport as a Chinese citizen. Zhang also denied the accusation that he was behind “attaining passport through cheating” for three of his co-workers.

According to a source who has seen the docuement requesting legal advice, the Zhongmu City People’s Court acknowledges that “there are insufficient evidence and ambiguous facts” in Zhang’s case.

“The Zhongzhou City Intermediate People’s Court is expected to give an answer to Xinmi Court by April 24,” said one of Zhang’s co-workers. “Otherwise, we will have to wait for one more month for the court verdict.”

Zhang is now being held in custody in Zhongmu City.

Zhang is a key leader of the China for Christ house church movement, formerly known as Fangcheng but renamed by Zhang in October 2004. During a court hearing in 2005, Zhang said the movement was now 10 million strong, though others believer it numbers around 1 million.

Zhang also co-authored a joint house church “Confession of Faith,” written in 1999, to plead for clemency during a widespread government crackdown against “cult” movements.

The 55-year-old Zhang was arrested by Henan police without charges on December 1, 2004. Only months later was he charged with “attaining a passport through cheating” and with “illegal border crossing.” Chinese authorities often deny passports to well-known house church leaders.

Health problems such as diabetes and high blood pressure have grown worse while in custody. Previously Zhang had been detained five times and spent a total of 12 years in prison for his religious activities.

Zhang, who has suffered from diabetes for six years and high blood pressure for four years, has spent most of his time in the hospital since December 19, 2005, but officials believe he is well enough to attend the hearing.

Following his arrest, authorities confiscated Christian DVDs and other materials from Zhang’s house that allegedly linked him with foreign Christians. Contact with foreign co-religionists can constitute illegal activity in China.

Copyright 2006 Compass Direct