By BosNewsLife Asia Service
BEIJING, CHINA (BosNewsLife)– China has sentenced 10 Christian leaders to long prison terms and forced labor camps as part of a wider government crackdown on unauthorized worship services, BosNewsLife learned Saturday, December 5.
Chinese Christians and rights activists confirmed that the leaders are from the large Linfen House Church, whose 50.000 members meet in buildings and private homes of individual believers in Shanxi province.
Five Linfen leaders, a man named as Li Shuangping and women Yang Hongzhen, Yang Caizhen, Gao Qin (also known as Gao Fuqin) and Zhao Guoai, received sentences of two years “re-education through labor camps” on November 30, said advocacy group China Aid Association (CAA), which has close links with house churches.
They were sentenced for “gathering people to disturb the public order” when organizing a prayer rally with some 1,000 believers on September 14, after their church was attacked by hunderds of police, according to Christians.
CAA said the detentions came after Pastors Yang Rongli, Wang Xiaoguang, Yang Xuan, Cui Jiaxing, and Zhang Huamei were sentenced up to seven years in prison on November 25 for “illegally occupying farming land” and “disturbing transportation order by gathering masses.”
“Sister Yang Rongli received a seven years [imprisonment] sentence on both charges. For the first charge Pastor Wang received three years, brother Yang Xuan three and a half years and Cui Jiaxing four and a half years [imprisonment]…Sister Zhang Huamei was found guilty of the second charge and sentenced to four years in prison,” CAA explained.
All ten Christian leaders plan to appeal and protest what CAA called “these brutal and illegal actions.”
“To arbitrarily send five innocent citizens to labor camps is in direct violation against the international human rights covenants and norms the Chinese government has signed and even ratified,” said Bob Fu, a former house church pastor who now leads CAA .
“This case shows the Chinese government is determined to be on the wrong side of history by clenching its power with suppressing the basic freedom of religion and conscience for Chinese citizens. We call upon the international community to hold these rights abusers accountable.”
China has defended its human rights record, saying Christians are free to worship with the official churches. However observers say many of the country’s estimated 130 million Christians prefer to worship outside control of the Communist government.