House Church Leader Jailed for Three Year as Chinese President Visits UK

Wednesday, November 9, 2005

On the morning of President Hu's arrival in the UK, Pastor Cai Zhuohua, a prominent Beijing house church leader, was today sentenced to three years. He will appeal to Beijing Intermediate Court
November 8, 2005 (Christian Solidarity Worldwide) -- Pastor Cai was abducted from a bus stop and dragged into a van by three plain-clothed State Security officers on September 11 2004. According to a former fellow inmate, Pastor Cai was repeatedly tortured with electric shocks and forced to give false confessions to serious charges.

On July 7 2005, Pastor Cai, his wife, Xiao Yunfei, her brother, Xiao Gaowen, and his wife, Hu Jinyun were tried for charges relating to 'illegal business practices' at the People's Court of Haidian District, Beijing. The charges followed the discovery of 200,000 copies of the Bible and other Christian literature in a storage room managed by him. The case highlights the repression of freedom for religious groups to publish and disseminate literature, which runs contrary to international standards.

Pastor Cai's wife and her brother were sentenced to two years and one and a half years respectively. Hu Jinyun was exempted from criminal punishment and is expected to be released after her lawyer completes relevant legal papers.

President Hu Jintao, who is staying at Buckingham Palace, will be meeting senior Government and opposition parliamentarians over the next few days. CSW has urged these key figures to raise Pastor Cai's case.

Pastor Cai's case is of interest as it highlights both the restrictions on literature production and demonstrates a new tactic of restraining religious freedom under the guise of prosecution for 'economic crimes'. However, it is only one of the many cases in which believers are suffering for their faith.

The China Aid Association (CAA) reports that six house church leaders who were taking part in a service attended by some 100 Christians were arrested in Henan Province on November 6.

At about 10am the meeting was raided by eight officials from the Public Security Bureau (PSB) and Religious Affair Bureau and ordered to stop, according to an eyewitness report.

Six of the church leaders were arrested at the "illegal religious gathering" and detained in the county detention centre.

Four of these church leaders have now been freed and two remain in detention. These two were told by PSB officials they would not be released until their house church ended their meetings or registered with the officially sanctioned Three Self Patriotic organization.

Meanwhile, CAA received reliable reports that about 12 house church leaders have been arrested in various cities in Hunan Province since July this year.

These leaders are part of China Gospel Fellowship, a well-known house church group. CAA has information that for the first time, some of these church leaders were drugged with an unknown substance by the State Security agents. This was in an attempt to find out how the church is run and where the church's secret Christian literature store house was located. Some of the 12 were tortured and forced to report back to the security forces on church activities.

A female church leader was told the security forces would kill her family if she did not inform on her church for them. Several of these house church leaders were reportedly suffering severe psychological and mental strain.

"Once again the assault on unregistered house church worship in Henan Province shows a worrisome sign that the religious persecution in China is worsening," said Bob Fu, CAA President. "The acts of brutal torture and drugging are totally unacceptable to the international human rights norms and even contradictory to Chinese law."

Tina Lambert, CSW's Advocacy Director, said: "That a house church leader should be sentenced to three years for producing religious material the very morning of the arrival of the President surely demands comment. We urge those meeting with President Hu to press upon him the importance that the UK attaches to freedom of religion and speech, and to urge for reforms that will ensure true protection of these rights for every Chinese citizen."