Chinese Prosecutor Drops Charges Against Jailed Pastors

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent, BosNewsLife

BEIJING, CHINA (BosNewsLife) -- There were hopes Tuesday, October 24, that at least five prominent Chinese church leaders jailed for their alleged role in resisting police forces while defending their church building would be released, after a prosecutor decided not to prosecute them because of "a lack of evidence," supporters said.

US-based China Aid Association (CAA), which investigates reports of religious persecution in China, told BosNewsLife it learned from family members that a local prosecutor in a district of Hangzhou city in Zhejiang province returned the case to the local Public Security Bureau (PSB) "to gather more evidence."

Pastors Shen Zhuke, the only woman among the prisoners, Shen Chengyi, Ni Weimin, Wang Weiliang and Guo Lijun were detained following tensions in July between Christians trying to prevent the destruction of their church and police in Hangzhou.


"The potential large-scale clash was actually avoided on the spot. The local prosecutor might find the charge of "incitement to resist law-enforcement,"not tenable," CAA said in a statement. "So the case was returned to the local PSB to gather more evidence," the group added.

CAA expressed concern however that prosecutors will re-open an investigation into the pastors involvement in major open air evangelistic meetings two years ago. "In 2004, Xiaoshan churches held a series of open-air Gospel meetings to evangelize the nomadic workers in Xiaoshan, a district of Hangzhou city, CAA said.

"As the attendance increased vehemently, the local PSB intervened. August 22, 2004 the police intercepted and arrested some Christians on their way to the meeting site," the group recalled. Although the incident was solved "peacefully" the "possibility still exists that the local PSB is investigating the legal responsibility of the church leaders," for at least one "open air Gospel meeting," CAA explained.


Reverend Bob Fu, the CAA president and a former Chinese house church leader, told BosNewsLife that he has urged the "Zhejiang authority to honor the rule of law and the spirit of religious freedom and to release them immediately."

Doing otherwise will mean that the local government, "will lose their credibility in the eyes of thousands of religious believers in the long run," he added.

Chinese officials have not reacted to the latest developments, but said earlier that there was no religious persecution in the Communist-run nation. There are about 80 million Christians in China, most of whom worship outside the 'official' denominations within house churches, according to several Christian human rights groups. (With BosNewsLife Research and reports from China).

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