Chinese evangelist handed 15-day sentence

Thursday, April 13, 2000

13 April 2000 (Newsroom) -- Chinese evangelist Li Dexian has been sentenced to 15 days in prison following his arrest on Tuesday for holding an unauthorized religious meeting, according to the Christian advocacy organization Voice of the Marytrs Australia.

The Christian group said that authorities at the Huadu prison in Guangdong province informed Li's wife Zhao Xia and several co-workers of the sentence when they went to visit the evangelist.

Public Security Bureau officers have arrested Li 13 times since October. Each time the arrests have occurred at the time of his weekly Tuesday morning Bible study in Huadu, west of Guangzhou. Authorities are trying to press Li to register his church activity with the state. The vast majority of China's Protestant Christians refuse to join the official Three-Self Patriotic Movement because of its restrictions on doctrine and church practice.

Li spent 15 days in prison in November. During his incarceration colleagues had speculated that the house church leader might be detained without charge for up to three years under an administrative sanction applied at the discretion of police called "re-education through labor." According to sources in Hong Kong, the fact that Li has foreign advocates who monitor his situation likely has prevented him from that sentence, which does not require a trial.

Li also was held for 15 days in December 1998 on a charge of "illegal preaching." According to Amnesty International, Li was beaten severely during four arrests that took place within four months in 1994 and 1995.

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