By BosNewsLife News Center
BEIJING, CHINA (BosNewsLife) -- Pastor Zhang Rongliang, one of China's top Christian leaders and authors, "will likely die soon" if he is not released from prison, fellow believers and human rights activists said Tuesday, September 25.
The Voice Of the Martyrs (VOM), an international Christian rights group, told BosNewsLife that "Pastor Zhang Rongliang's health is failing." VOM quoted a key contact as saying that "Pastor Zhang must be carried from place to place by two men supporting him. He does not walk well on his own." Zhang, 56, also "openly questions whether he can finish this sentence. If he is not released, there is a good chance that he will die in prison," VOM said, citing its contact.
Earlier, Zhangâ€™s wife and their two sons already expressed concern about his health as he apparently suffers from serious diabetes. His disease is "so serious that he was taken to the Xinmi City Peopleâ€™s Hospital from his detention center December 19, 2005 until January 23, 2006 for emergency treatment," said China Aid Association (CAA), a Christian advocacy group with close ties to Chinese house churches. During the medical procedure, Zhang was allegedly handcuffed and chained to his hospital bed.
Zhang, who was arrested in 2004 in Zhengzhou city of Henan province, has four years remaining of the seven-and-a-half year prison sentence he received on charges of "attaining an illegal passport" and "illegal border crossingâ€ for international travel to the United States, Australia, Egypt and Singapore for world mission conferences.
Human rights groups have accused China's Communist authorities of punishing the pastor for his activities as leader of the Fangcheng Mother Church in Henan and the China for Christ Church, one of the largest house church networks in the country with about 10 million members. Chinese officials have denied religious rights abuses.
Co-author of the House Churches of China's Confession of Faith and Declaration in 1999, Zhang is also well-known internationally and has been featured in books such as 'Jesus in Beijing: How Christianity Is Transforming China and Changing the Global Balance of Power' by former Time magazine journalist David Aikman, and in articles in magazines such as Newsweek.
Besides arresting the pastor, officials have also confiscated Zhang's Christian DVDs, materials and photos revealing relationships with foreigners and foreign agencies, according to fellow Christians. Several house churches with links to him were reportedly raided since 2004, including the house of the parents of Xiao Min, sought by authorities for writing Chinese Christian worship songs, known as "Canaan Hymns."
Chinese Christians and rights investigators have said that China's Communist authorities appear concerned about the spread of Christianity and the possibility that missionaries will use the next years' Beijing Olympic Games as a venue to further spread the Gospel among the masses. Communist officials have reportedly estimated there may be as many as 130 million Christians in China, dozens of millions more than previous estimates. (With reporting from China).
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