South China Church Leaders Freed -- Then Re-Arrested

Wednesday, October 9, 2002

Police Detain Four Women who Accused Officers of Torturing Them
by Xu Mei

NANJING, China (Compass) -- Four female leaders of the South China Church, an unregistered house church network, were declared innocent by the Hubei Provincial Court on October 11. However, only hours after their release they were re-arrested by the Public Security Bureau and sent to three years of "re-education through labor."

The four women, Feng Pingxiang, 32; Meng Xicun, 27; Li Yingping, 28; and Liu Xianzhi, 31, had reportedly been sexually molested and repeatedly tortured with electric shocks. The mistreatment stopped only when they signed documents saying that their pastor, Gong Shengliang, had raped them.

The women, along with Gong and other leaders of the South China Church, were arrested last year. Gong and three others had been sentenced to death for cult activities, and in Gong's case, for rape.

Due to an international outcry, which would have been extremely embarrassing on the eve of President Jiang Zemin's visit with U.S. President George Bush, the Hubei Provincial Court held a re-trial on October 11. According to a press release issued by Voice of the Martyrs, Gong and two other leaders had their death sentences reduced to life imprisonment. Li Ying, also due to be executed, was sentenced to 15 years in prison. The four women were declared innocent.

Even more significant, all charges that the South China Church was an "evil cult" were dropped. The higher court appears to have recognized that the "evidence" produced by the lower court was unreliable, having been extracted by torture.

The women reportedly were preparing to sue the police in the city of Jingmen for torture and wrongful arrest. The local court at Jingmen had originally called for the death sentences. It appears that the local Jingmen police re-arrested the four women in a bid to prevent them from carrying out their legal suit.

The case is a glaring example of how far the Chinese legal system -- totally destroyed during the Cultural Revolution 40 years ago and slowly being rebuilt -- still has to go to provide impartial justice. Courts are often powerless to take action against police corruption and brutality.