Tortured Chinese Pastor Pleads for Prison Transfer before He is Killed

Thursday, April 22, 2004

April 22, 2004 (Christian Solidarity Worldwide) -- Chinese Pastor Gong Shengliang of the South China Church has begged to be transferred from his current prison, telling his sisters "If you are able in any way, please transfer me to another prison - otherwise just come and pick up my corpse."

He made this plea during his sisters' ten minute visit to Hongshan Prison, Wuhan City, Hubei Province, where he is currently being held.

The report has emerged through China Aid Association, whose sources said Gong was unable to walk into the visiting hall and had to be carried in by four other inmates. One of the sisters asked the guard for an explanation and was told that he fell washing windows. The guard said he was washing windows inside the prison, but that he fell outside the building.

When Gong was asked about the injury he looked at the guard and then replied reluctantly "Yes, I fell". He is accompanied everywhere he goes by two guards, making the account of his falling from a window even less credible.

When one of the sisters complained to the prison director, Sun Wenquan, about Gong's injuries, the director told her that Gong is a model prisoner in all ways but one, namely that he refuses to denounce his Christian faith and will not stop praying and preaching.

His sisters, who could only speak to him via a telephone as they were separated by two layers of glass, also asked why he did not write letters anymore. He replied "I don't have the strength to write. When I pick up my pen there are lots of troubles."

CSW has asked supporters to urgently write to and fax the Chinese authorities in order to urge his transfer and improved treatment. CSW has also been lobbying at the UN Commission on Human Rights on his case.

Alexa Papadouris, Advocacy Director of CSW, said: "The Chinese authorities' treatment of Pastor Gong is appalling. His conviction is unjustifiable in the first place and in addition he has been relentlessly pressurised, beaten and mistreated in a way that totally disregards universally accepted norms of justice and decency.

"We call on the international community to act quickly to put pressure on the Chinese authorities to stop mistreating Pastor Gong, to ensure his transfer and to re-examine his case as a matter of real urgency." For more information, please contact Richard Chilvers, Communications Manager, CSW at CSW is a human rights charity working on behalf of those persecuted for their Christian beliefs. We also promote religious liberty for all.

Background information:

Pastor Gong, leader of the South China Church, was sentenced to death at the end of 2001. However, following an international outcry, his case was reviewed and he is now serving a sentence of 'life in prison'. He has been held in Jingzhou Prison in Hubei Province, central China, since December 2002. Many of his fellow church leaders are also serving lengthy sentences.

Torture and sexual abuse were used by officers to extract confessions and evidence. In June 2003 Pastor Gong was beaten into a coma in Jingzhou Prison, China. He suffered severe internal injuries and was bed bound for weeks.

His family and fellow church leaders issued a message which said: "The prison authority brainwashes him every day, forcing him to give up his faith and plead guilty...In addition, the prison authority keeps pressing Pastor Gong both psychologically and spiritually. No one is allowed to contact him and talk to him...By this they attempt to destroy Pastor Gong's faith and will...For almost two years since he was arrested, his mind and body have suffered serious hurt. We feel regrettable over what the prison authority has done to him and deeply worried about the mistreatment Pastor Gong has gone through."

The Chinese authorities consistently persecute religious groups which do not belong to state-sponsored religious organisations.