Prominent Beijing House Church Leader Faces Harsh Sentence

Monday, November 15, 2004

Beijing, November 15, 2004 (VOM News) -- Chinese contacts of The Voice of the Martyrs have learned that a prominent Beijing house church leader faces an extremely harsh sentence if convicted in his upcoming trial.

Pastor Cai Zhuohua, the leading minister to six house churches in Beijing, will be formally tried in a Beijing court any day now. The 32-year-old pastor was kidnapped by three plain-clothes officers believed to be from the Department of State Security at about 2:00pm on September 11, 2004. According to an eyewitness, Cai was waiting at a bus stop when three strong men approached him and pushed him into a white van. Cai was returning home following a Bible study session that morning.

Cai’s wife, Xiao Yunfei, along with her brother, Xiao Gaowen, and sister-in-law, Hu Jinyun, were arrested September 27 while hiding in Hengshan county, Hunan province.

Sources familiar with the case told VOM that pastor Cai and his wife will face an extremely harsh sentence because of their prominent role in the Beijing house church leadership.

VOM has learned that this case has been handled directly by the Department of State Security. VOM sources learned that a two-word handwritten directive, “Yan Ban!” (which means - to deal with this case harshly and severely), was issued by Mr. Qiang Wei, deputy General Secretary of the Politics and Law Commission of Beijing. VOM also learned that the central government has labeled this case the “most serious case on overseas religious infiltration since the founding of the People’s Republic of China.”

Authorities were apparently shocked when they found around 200,000 copies of the Bible and other Christian literature in a storage room managed by pastor Cai. In China, only one publisher, affiliated with the officially-sanctioned Three-Self Patriotic Movement, is allowed to print Bibles and other Christian literature each year, and the numbers of these items are severely limited. These publications are forbidden to be sold in public bookstores.

With the rapid growth in the number of Christians every year, Chinese house churches sometimes find printers willing to print a few Bibles for extra cash instead of relying on Bibles smuggled from overseas. Sources close to one of pastor Cai’s churches said the confiscated Bibles and other Christian literature were solely for internal house church use, and that pastor Cai made no profit from them.

Pastor Cai and his wife have a four-year-old son, Cai Yabo, who is now in the care of his grandmother. A prosecution source told VOM that this case is part of a broader national campaign that began this past June against the underground church and so-called “illegal” religious publications. Chinese authorities are especially unhappy about a house church quarterly magazine called Love Feast (“AI YAN” in which pastor Cai has been involved.

In several issues in the past, it published articles on President Bush’s faith and commemorations on Dr. Jonathan Chao, one of the most respected Chinese church historians, who passed away this year. These articles were not consistent with the Chinese government position on these issues.

According to the same source, the authorities are considering convicting pastor Cai and his wife, along with the other two relatives, on criminal charges such as tax evasion or illegal business management rather than on illegal religion charges. These criminal charges could lead to a life sentence. All four are now being held at Qinghe Detention Center, Haidian District, Beijing. So far none of their relatives have been allowed to visit them.

“All of those who have known pastor Cai over the years can testify that he and his wife are wonderful Christians with loving hearts for both the church in China and their motherland,” said Bob Fu, a VOM associate and the president of China Aid Association (CAA), as well as a former coworker of pastor Cai. “We urge people of all faiths to take action to demand their immediate release.”

Letters of protest can be sent to the Chinese Embassy in Washington DC at the following address:

Ambassador Yang Jiechi
Embassy of the People’s Republic of China
2300 Connecticut Ave NW,
Washington DC 20008
Tel:(202) 328-2500 Fax:(202) 588-0032
Director of Religious Affairs: (202) 328-2512