Chinese evangelist suffering as authorities decide his fate

Tuesday, April 18, 2000

18 April 2000 (Newsroom) -- Chinese evangelist Li Dexian has been kept in chains since his arrest April 11 in Guangdong province and is suffering physical pain, according to a Christian monitoring group. The house church leader, who has been arrested 13 times since October for his unauthorized church activities, is in the middle of a 15-day sentence.

The Bible study meeting that Li leads each Tuesday in the village of Huadu near Guangzhou went on without him with no interference from police, according to a report from Voice of the Martyrs (VOM) Australia. Li's colleagues fear, however, that authorities are using this 15-day term to decide whether he will be given a longer sentence. Many religious leaders in China have been detained without charge for up to three years under an administrative sanction applied at the discretion of police, called "re-education through labor."

VOM said that the house church leader's legs are in chains at all times and his hands are bound and chained to his feet. The conditions, which have affected his spine, are giving him "great pain," the group said. Police have prevented Li from having visitors, including his wife.

Chinese authorities are pressing Li to bring his Christian activities under state control. Local Public Security Bureau officers have told Li that the decision to arrest him has come from higher authorities. In January, the state-run People's Daily reported that China intends to push forward with a crackdown on groups not sanctioned by the government.

The South China Morning Post reported last week that Guangdong Communist Party secretary Li Changchun has made the market-oriented province a base for "Jiang Zemin Thought," the ideological teachings of the Chinese president. Analysts in Guangzhou say that Li wants to alleviate the president's concern that the southern province, which has enjoyed greater prosperity than other parts of the country, is straying from the communist path as it embraces Western investment and values.

Meanwhile, Amnesty International criticized China on Tuesday for quashing a resolution presented to the U.N. Human Rights Commission on April 11 by the United States. Amnesty said that China's "no action" motion brought against the resolution is an abuse of a loophole in the commission's procedures that "should be an embarrassment to the world's top human rights body."

The U.S. resolution called for China to allow all religious groups to worship freely and to release political prisoners. It also rebuked the world's largest nation for "severe measures taken to restrict the peaceful activities'' of religious believers.

Amnesty expressed disappointment that "China's abysmal record on human rights is again left untouched," stating that since the end of 1998, "the Chinese government has instigated a massive crackdown on peaceful dissent, resulting in arbitrary arrests, torture, unfair trials, religious repression, and executions."

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Used with permission.