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The Christian Times
Jardine Malado
12 January, 2017

■ The former pastor of the largest state-run megachurch in China's Zhejiang province has been arrested on charges of embezzling funds.

Gu "Joseph" Yuese, the former pastor of Chongyi Church in Zhejiang's capital of Hangzhou, was arrested sometime before Christmas, according to China Aid. His family received notice about his arrest on Jan. 7, informing them that Gu is being held at the Hangzhou Municipal Detention Center.

Chongyi Church is considered as the largest house of worship associated with the Three-Self Patriotic Movement (TPSM), a government-run Christian organization.

Gu was removed from his position as a pastor of Chongyi on Jan. 18, 2016. He was later charged with embezzling funds and held in secret detention. He was released on bail after two months and placed under house arrest.

Gu had also served as the chairman of the local branch of the China Christian Council (CCC), another Christian organization run by the state.

The TPSM and the CCC stated that removing Gu was a necessary step in order to "move one step closer towards the proper self-construction and management of church locations ... and sort out the interpersonal relationship between the province and the two municipal [Christian] organizations."

A local resident rides a bicycle past a church in Xiaoshan, a
commercial suburb of Hangzhou, the capital of China's east
Zhejiang province December 21, 2006.
(Reuters/Lang Lang/Files)
In 2014, he publicly opposed the demolition of church crosses in Zhejiang. When the government launched the investigation against Gu, a group of Hong Kong-based Christians have alleged that the probe was linked to his opposition to the crackdown against Christian activity.

Over 1,500 Protestant and Catholic churches lost their crosses since the campaign, known as the "Three Rectifications and One Demolition," began in 2013. The authorities also went after those who protested against the removal of the crosses. More than 250 attorneys, pastors and human rights activists were detained or arrested from July to September 2015.

One of the lawyers was Zhang Kai, who led a group that defends churches whose crosses have been removed. He was held in a "black jail" for six months and only surfaced in February 2016 to make a forced confession on state-run television. He was charged with "endangering state secrets" and "gathering a crowd to disturb public order." He was released on bail on March 23.


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The Christian Post
By Stoyan Zaimov
Jan 12, 2017 | 12:24 pm

■ Gu Yuese, the former pastor of China's largest state-run megachurch, has reportedly been re-apprehended and formally arrested on charges of embezzling funds, though persecution watchdog groups say the punishment is about his opposition to the government's removal of church crosses.

China Aid reported that the pastor was taken in by authorities sometime before Christmas, and on Jan. 7 his family received a formal notice for his arrest.

Gu was previously arrested at the beginning of 2016 on the same charges, when government authorities investigated him for corruption. He was released in March on bail, and held under house arrest.

Radio Free Asia reported last year that the pastor never returned to work at Chongyi Church after his release.

As the Hong Kong Free Press and other sources have reported, Gu was targeted by the Communist Party not long after he criticized the ongoing church rooftop crosses demolition campaign, which has seen hundreds of Christians and other pastors arrested as well.

"Gu is the highest-profile Christian official to be targeted since the Cultural Revolution," China Aid stated, noting that the former Chongyi Church pastor also served as the former chairman of the Hangzhou Municipal China Christian Council, a local branch of the China Christian Council.

The Hangzhou Public Security Bureau insisted in a notice that Gu was arrested because he was suspected of committing "misappropriation of funds," and is currently being held at the Hangzhou Municipal Detention Center.

Believers attend a service at the unofficial catholic church in
Majhuang village, Hebei Province, China, December 11,
2016. (Photo: Reuters/Thomas Peter)
Bob Fu, founder and president of China Aid, told The Christian Post back in February 2016 that Gu's arrest will have far-reaching consequences.

"It will shake the spirit of the government-sanctioned church leaders and the congregations throughout China. All these factors will have a ripple effect," Fu told CP.

He also suggested that the ongoing targeting of Christians is due to their rise in numbers, which is seen as a great threat to the Communist Party.

"The top leadership is very increasingly worried about the rapid growth of Christian faith and their public presence, and their social influence," Fu argued at the time.

"It is a political fear for the Communist Party, as the number of Christians in the country far outnumber the members of the Party," he added.

Another prominent pastor, 39-year old Li Guozhi, also known as Pastor Yang Hua with the Living Stone Church, was sentenced to two an a half years in prison earlier in January after allegedly being tortured into "confessing" to charges related to "divulging state secrets."

Shandong-based lawyer Zhao Yonglin claimed that government officials ordered the pastor to be tortured and verbally abused into a confession last year, though prosecutors denied that Lee was forced.

"This is nothing but purely barbaric religious persecution," Fu commented on Li's sentence. "We urge President [Barack] Obama and President-elect [Donald] Trump to unequivocally condemn this brutal act."


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Li Chunfu
(Photo: China Aid)
China Aid

(Tianjin—Jan. 13, 2017) Traumatized by more than a year of torture, a prominent Christian human rights lawyer in China’s Tianjin municipality fears he might die of medical conditions.

Li Chunfu, a rights attorney, was released on bail yesterday, emaciated and aged. When she noticed he was fearful of entering his own apartment, his spouse wept.

Since his release, Li revealed to his wife that he was subjected to medical examinations almost daily while being held in an unofficial “black jail.” The authorities diagnosed him with high blood pressure, even though he has never suffered from it before, and fed him unknown medications. Li also claimed that his heart is damaged and believes he does not have long to live.

Li was likely tortured while imprisoned, prompting his fear. His family is calling for immediate professional help.

Wang Qiaoling (left), wife of
incarcerated attorney Li Heping,
weeps as she greets Li Chunfu.
(Photo: China Aid)
Li disappeared into police custody on Aug. 1, 2015, shortly after his brother, Li Heping, was apprehended during a nationwide crackdown on human rights defenders. On Dec. 6, Wang Qiaoling, Li Heping's wife, learned that her husband had been charged with “subversion of state power” and was to be prosecuted.

During his incarceration, Li Chunfu was held incommunicado.

“The Chinese regime’s Nazi-style brutality enacted against innocent peaceful rights defense lawyers such as Li Chunfu should be condemned by everyone with a conscience,” said China Aid’s president and founder, Bob Fu. “This is a barbaric act against humanity that is in absolute violation of international standards that prevent arbitrary detention and torture and protect of human rights defenders.”

In 2012, Li Chunfu was part of a delegation that traveled to Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, and Texas to meet with Members of Congress, State Department officials, the Congressional Executive Commission on China, and personnel from the Human Rights Watch, the Center for East Asian Studies at the University of Pennsylvania, and Baylor Law School.

China Aid reports abuses, such as those experienced by the Li family, in order to obtain international aid for persecuted Christians and promote religious freedom, human rights, and rule of law.


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Christian Today
Carey Lodge
Published 11 January 2017

■ A Chinese megapastor has been arrested on charges of embezzling funds, according to persecution watchdog China Aid.

The Texas-based charity reports that Gu 'Joseph' Yuese was formally arrested on January 7, after being detained by police before Christmas.

He is being held at the Hangzhou Municipal Detention Center.

China Aid
He was formally the senior pastor of Chongyi Church, the largest church associated with the Three-Self Patriotic Movement; a government-run Christian organisation.

However, he was fired after being detained in January 2015 for opposing the removal of crosses from churches in Zhejiang province.

He was then arrested in February 2015 on the same charges of embezzling funds. He was later released in advance of President Xi Jinping's visit to the US for the Nuclear Security Summit in Washington DC.

Gu was also previously the chairman of the Zhejiang branch of the China Christian Council, which helps oversee registered churches, and according to China Aid, is "the highest-profile Christian official to be targeted since the Cultural Revolution".

Gu is among a number of pastors and lawyers who have been detained after protesting or working on behalf of churches demolished under the Chinese government's three-year 'Three Rectifications and One Demolition' campaign, which has seen up to 1,700 churches bulldozed or had their crosses removed.

The campaign supposedly has the aim of exposing and removing "illegal structures", but is widely seen as a move to combat the increasing influence of Christianity in the country.


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Radio Free Asia
2017-01-11

■ Human rights in Hong Kong deteriorated to their lowest point ever last year, according to an annual report by Amnesty International.

Authorities in the former British colony "failed on many fronts" to protect the city's traditional rights and freedoms, which are now at their lowest ebb since the 1997 handover to Chinese rule, the report said.

Hong Kong lawmaker Nathan Law shows photos of his
bruises following an attack by pro-Beijing protesters, Jan. 9,
2017. RFA
Citing a lack of official engagement with the disappearances of five Hong Kong booksellers detained by Chinese police for selling controversial political books to customers across the internal immigration border in mainland China, the report said there are now doubts over whether the physical safety of Hong Kong people is sufficiently guaranteed.

The report came after two former student leaders of the 2014 Occupy Central pro-democracy movement, Nathan Law and Joshua Wong, were attacked during and on their return from a trip to Taiwan.

Law, now Hong Kong's youngest lawmaker, said he was jostled on Sunday night by protesters at the city's international airport on his return from a speaking tour to visit pro-democracy activists in Taiwan.

Two people were arrested after anti-independence protesters threw liquid in his face and tried to attack Law, 23, who was shown stumbling down a staircase in video footage of the melee, as protesters shouted "Traitor!" and "Fall down and die!"

The alleged attackers, aged 53 and 71, were arrested on suspicion of assault occasioning actual bodily harm and unlawful assembly, local media reported.

Earlier, Wong and Law, whose Demosisto party embraces the idea of self-determination for Hong Kong, were met by some 200 protesters in Taiwan, some of whom tried to throw punches at Wong.

Police in Taiwan said on Wednesday they have arrested eight people with suspected triad connections over the attempted attack, which came ahead of a political forum organized by the pro-independence New Power Party, at which the pair were speaking.

Repeated warnings

The attacks came after repeated warnings by Chinese officials that talk of independence for Hong Kong won't be tolerated, although it only emerged after widespread calls for fully democratic elections were ignored by Beijing.

Law denied that Demosisto is a pro-independence party, however.

"We are clearly not advocating independence for Hong Kong; I don't think that any of our three elected politicians are," he said following the attack on Sunday.

"But I don't think that I, as an elected representative, should be subjected to physical attacks, whatever my political views," Law said. "They couldn't even guarantee the safety of a lawmaker."

Meanwhile, Amnesty also cited an interpretation by Beijing of Hong Kong's constitution last October, which prompted the disqualification of two pro-independence lawmakers as calling into question Beijing's promises that the city would maintain a "high degree of autonomy."

"The Hong Kong government and civil servants should make defending the rights of Hong Kong people their first priority," the report said.

Spokeswoman Raees Baig told reporters that violence against journalists and diminishing freedom of expression are "escalating."

"We see this year that there are escalating cases of violence against reporters, and a very ... confined space [for] press freedom, or freedom of expression," Baig said.

"So these are actually escalating problems ... Is it the worst year [to date]? I guess we can generally say yes," she said.

No meeting with Trump

The reports come as Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen starts a visit to the Americas this week, after Beijing protested her unofficial trip to Washington. Tsai won't be meeting with president-elect Donald Trump, however.

While the Chinese Communist Party has never ruled Taiwan, it regards the democratic island as a province awaiting reunification, and has threatened to invade if its government seeks formal statehood.

Beijing's diplomatic partners are required to cut ties with the government in Taiwan, which was taken over by the Kuomintang nationalist government after World War II, ending 50 years of Japanese rule there.

Repeated polls have shown that many of Taiwan's 23 million residents identify as Taiwanese rather than Chinese, and that there is broad political support for de facto self-rule, if not formal independence.

President Tsai's Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) swept to power earlier this year amid fears of growing Chinese influence over Taiwan under her predecessor Ma Ying-jeou.

The party has a staunchly pro-independence wing.

Reported by Lam Kwok-lap for RFA's Cantonese Service, and by Hwang Chun-mei for the Mandarin Service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.


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The Gospel Herald
By Leah Marieann Klett
Jan 09, 2017 12:45 pm EST

■ A prominent pastor in China has been sentenced to two-and-a-half years in prison after being charged with "divulging state secrets", prompting a Christian human rights organization to call on President-elect Donald Trump to "unequivocally condemn this brutal act."

According to China Aid, Li Guozhi, a pastor at Huoshi Church who goes by the pseudonym Yang Hua, was taken into police custody on Dec. 9, 2015, after he attempted to prevent them from confiscating one of the church's hard drives. On Thursday, the pastor was sentenced to two years and six months in prison by a court in China's central Guizhou province.

"This is nothing but purely barbaric religious persecution," said Bob Fu, president and founder of China Aid. "We urge President Obama and President-Elect Trump to unequivocally condemn this brutal act."

Pastor Yang Hua was imprisoned in 2015 for "divulging state
secrets" Free YangHua.org
In 2016 later interview with his lawyers, Chen Jiangang and Zhao Yonglin, Yang shared how prosecutors tortured him when he refused to confess to his charges, including standing on his toes and threatening to kill him and bring harm to his family. As a result, Chen and Zhao sued the prosecutors for "using torture to extort a confession" and asked that they be dealt with according to the law. Nevertheless, the prosecutors were not removed from his case.

"Even a day in jail is too much for an innocent person," defense attorney Chen told Radio Free Asia following Yang's sentencing. "I have only one thing to say about this. This isn't a judgement: it's persecution."

"This is a political case that has nothing to do with the law or the truth," Chen continued. "This is political persecution pure and simple."

In a letter penned to his wife in 2016, Yang described how God had used the time of pain and uncertainty for His glory.

"This is a good place to rest, where I am cut off from the rest of the world and brought closer to God," he wrote of his jail cell. "I can no longer hear the clamorous noise, but can better listen to the Lord's voice."

The pastor added, "Genuine rest has nothing to do with the environment. No matter if the waves are quiet or the sea roars, our hearts rest in [God], just as a weaned child sleeps in its mother's arms. I want to thank God for using this special method to give this special gift to our household. Let us accept and enjoy it with a thankful heart."

The pastor was supposed to be released on December 20; however, when his wife came to collect him, she saw officials herding him into an unlicensed vehicle as he donned a black hood.

Eventually, she learned that his charge had changed, and that he was being transferred to criminal detention for "illegally possessing state secrets." He was officially arrested on Jan. 22 for "divulging state secrets."

Despite his bleak circumstances, Yang encouraged his wife to stand firm in the Holy Spirit and continue to pray for his persecutors.

"After this period of time, my spiritual life will be even more distinctive from the song that says 'A crowd flooded into my kingdom, but they did not want to bear the cross.' You can sing the song," he wrote.

"Let the words of God make you stronger," the pastor added. "You must always pray. Do not live in weakness and confusion; this is Satan's scheme. Be full of the Holy Spirit and leave spiritual predicaments. Seek [to fulfill] all of the Lord's decrees. Remove all of the negative thoughts and voices from your life."

China is home to an estimated 68 million Protestants, of whom 23 million worship in state-affiliated churches, and some nine million Catholics, 5.7 million of whom are in state-sponsored organizations.


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Yang Hua poses with his wife and two
sons. (Photo: China Aid)
China Aid

(Washington, D.C.—Jan. 11, 2017) U.S. Representative Chris Smith and Senator Marco Rubio released a statement condemning the sentencing of a house church pastor yesterday.

Smith and Rubio, who serve as chair and co-chair, respectively, of the Congressional-Executive Commission on China, voiced their concern over the harsh prison term handed to Li Guozhi, who goes by the alias Yang Hua and was tried for “divulging state secrets” on Dec. 26.

Officials originally took Yang into police custody on Dec. 9, 2015, and subjected him to two consecutive, five-day administrative detention periods for “the crime of obstructing justice” and “gathering a crowd to disturb public order” after he tried to prevent authorities from confiscating a church hard drive. When his wife came to collect him on Dec. 20, 2015, she saw him being forced to wear a black hood and herded into an unlicensed vehicle. Upon inquiry, she learned that his charge had been changed to “illegally possessing state secrets,” and that he was being transferred to criminal detention. On Jan. 22, Yang was officially arrested for a fourth charge, “divulging state secrets.”

The prosecutors assigned to Yang’s case subsequently tortured him and threatened his family in an attempt to force him to confess. Despite the lawsuit his defense lawyers brought against the prosecution team and the defendant’s request that they be excluded from his trial, they were not removed from the case.

Additionally, the government allowed the Nanming District Court, which possibly has connections with a state-run center that is dedicating to persecuting Huoshi Church, which Yang pastors, to try the case. This center was given authority to command local government-run departments, including the Nanming District Court, diminishing the probability that Yang’s trial was impartial.

Smith and Rubio responded as follows:

“The harsh sentence given to Pastor Yang Hua (Li Guozhi) is another sad demonstration of China’s efforts to suppress and control independent religious activity. At a time when China is facing enormous social and economic challenges, trampling on the most fundamental rights of religious believers needlessly ostracizes hundreds of millions of peaceful and productive Chinese citizens. We know that countries that protect religious freedom enjoy more economic freedom, more women’s empowerment, more political stability, and less religion-related violence and terrorism. Given the persistent growth of religious belief in China it is unclear why, other than uninformed fear and stubborn ideological orthodoxy, less counterproductive approaches are not being considered. Pastor Yang Hua, and the other Christian leaders from the Living Stone Church, should be released immediately and unconditionally.”

Representative Chris Smith

“I am deeply troubled by the crackdown on Christian leaders associated with Living Stone Church, including Chinese Pastor Yang Hua (Li Guozhi). These believers desire nothing more than to peacefully live out their faith, yet the Chinese government is treating them as enemies of the state as depriving them of their most basic rights."

Senator Marco Rubio

China Aid joins Smith and Rubio in condemning China’s trial of Yang and persistent imprisonment of Christians throughout the country and exposes such abuses in order to promote religious freedom, human rights, and rule of law.


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Mimi Lau 
Published : Sunday, 08 January, 2017, 9:02 am
Updated : Sunday, 08 January, 2017, 9:02 am

Li Guozhi, or Pastor Yang Hua, was sentenced for 30 months for exposing document outlining official plan for the destruction of his church

A 39-year-old house church pastor who was sentenced in absentia on December 30 to two and a half years for leaking state secrets in southwest China’s Guizhou province but was only informed of the verdict last week said he will seek an appeal.

Pastor Su Tianfu, in black T-shirt, and Pastor Yang Hua, in
checked shirt. Photo: Handout
Li Guozhi, known as Pastor Yang Hua with the Living Stone Church in the provincial capital Guiyang, had pleaded not guilty at a closed-door hearing on December 26 in Nanming district court. A written verdict was handed down four days after the hearing but it did not reach him or his lawyers by mail until this week.

Critics labelled the case religious persecution, part of an intensifying trend by Beijing to crack down unsanctioned religious groups.

A pastor commenting on the case who refused to be named for fear of retribution described the verdict as “ridiculous”.

“It is religious persecution inside and out with legal and political implications? It is truly sad and disappointing,” said the pastor.

Li was accused of forwarding a social media post containing a document that was deemed as state secret by Guizhou authorities. The document concerned a plan to crack down on the Living Stone Church in 2015, according to the verdict. Li also distributed a letter calling for prayers for the church in the online post.

Pastor Yang Hua. Photo: Handout
Living Stone was eventually shut down, with hundreds of members dispersed. Only a few dozen meet privately at individual houses today. Authorities sealed the church’s 600-square-metre office worth 5 million yuan (HK$5.6 million) suspended its bank accounts .

In December 2015, Li was placed in administrative detention for five days for disturbing public order and was officially arrest the following month for leaking state secrets.

He remained locked up in Nanming district detention centre for more than a year while another pastor of the church, Su Tianfu, who was placed under a year-long residential surveillance, and two other Christians were charged by with the same crime.

“The so-called state secret was a document prepared by a temporary city administrative task force calling for the destruction of Living Stone Church. But the decision itself was illegal and should have been exposed instead,” said Shandong-based lawyer Zhao Yonglin.

According to a defence statement prepared by Zhao and Chen Jiangang, another lawyer for Li, alleged that Pastor Yang Hua had been tortured and verbally abused to make a confession several times last year, but prosecutors denied this in the verdict.

Days before Li’s hearing, Su was escorted away from Guiyang by secret state security agents, according to Wang Hongwu, Li’s wife, who was barred from attending the trial.

“I knew nothing about the verdict until this week,” said Wang. The couple have two sons, aged 15 and six.

Crosses were removed from churches in Wenzhou, Zhejiang
province in 2014. Photo: SCMP
“Yang Hua is appealing and I’m backing him all the way. The verdict is in the hands of the Lord. I trust that He will never do us wrong,” said Wang.

Wang said she was thankful for one thing despite of the ordeal watching the church, one of the largest in Guiyang, being destroyed and her husband being locked away.

“I was told that he is very popular inside prison. Most inmates don’t know his name but they call him Jesus. That must be all he talks about inside,” Wang said.

China’s house churches, both Protestant and Catholic, operate independently from state-sanctioned religious organisations.

The State Council’s Legislative Affairs Office recently considered introducing a tougher regulations on religious affairs, prompting concerns that house churches will be the state’s next target following last year’s massive crackdowns on lawyers and NGOs.

Since 2014, a campaign in Zhejiang province has seen crosses removed from atop churches.

It is estimated there are at least 60 million Christians in China, a third of whom belonging to official churches.

Dr Fan Yafeng, a legal expert and director of the Holy Mountain Institute in Beijing, said house church Christians comprised the largest NGO outside party control, which worried authorities deeply.

“Living Stone is a small case in major cities like Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou, but it was a major crackdown target in a backwater city like Guiyang,” Fan said.

In 2014, Pastor Zhang Shaojie of the Nale County Christian Church in Henan province, a sanctioned church, was sentenced to 12 years for fraud and for gathering crowds to disturb public order.

“The crackdown targeting churches is expected to escalate in the next three to five years in general if there is no major political reform,” Fan said.


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Gu Yuese preaching before his arrest.
(Photo: China Aid)
China Aid

Updated at 1:18 p.m. CST on Jan. 11, 2017

(Hangzhou, Zhejiang—Jan. 10, 2017) In the most high-profile religious persecution case since the Cultural Revolution, the former pastor of China’s largest state-run megachurch was formally arrested on Saturday by a local public security bureau in China’s coastal Zhejiang province.

According to informed sources, authorities re-apprehended Gu “Joseph” Yuese sometime before Christmas. On Jan. 7, his family received a notice announcing that he had been arrested on charges of embezzling funds.

A Christian also said there was a possibility the government could try to sue Gu.

As the former chairman of the Hangzhou Municipal China Christian Council, a local branch of the China Christian Council (CCC), which, along with the Three-Self Patriotic Movement (TSPM), comprises China’s two government-run Christian organizations, Gu is the highest-profile Christian official to be targeted since the Cultural Revolution. He also was a Member of the Standing Committee of the national China Christian Council before being removed from both of these positions.

On Jan. 18, 2016, he was ousted from his position as senior pastor of Chongyi Church, China’s largest Three-Self Church. In a document entitled, “Notice Regarding the Personnel Change of the Senior Pastor of Hangzhou’s Chongyi Church,” the local TSPM and CCC alleged that replacing Gu would help them better manage official churches, improve their relationship with the provincial government, and better circulate prominent Christians who are in charge of churches.

However, Gu had publicly opposed the forced demolition of church crosses, causing many Christians to suspect a correlation between his advocacy and dismissal.

On Jan. 28, 2016, officials placed Gu under “residential surveillance in a designated location,” otherwise known as a “black jail,” and held him incommunicado. Two days later, China Aid learned that he had been charged with “embezzling 10 million Yuan [U.S. $1.6 million] in funds.” He was released on bail in late March and held under house arrest.

A translation of his arrest notice can be read below.

China Aid exposes abuses, such as those experienced by Gu “Joseph” Yuese, in order to stand in solidarity with persecuted Christians and promote religious freedom.




Gu's arrest notice.
(Photo: China Aid)
The Public Security Bureau of the City of Hangzhou

Arrest Notice

Hangzhou Public Security Bureau arrest notice No. [2017] 001

To the family members of Joseph Gu:

Under the approval of the Jianggan District People’s Court of Hangzhou, our bureau arrested Gu Yuese, who is suspected of “misappropriation of funds,” on Jan. 7, 2017, at 5:00 p.m. He is currently imprisoned at the Hangzhou Municipal Detention Center.

Jan. 7, 2017

Notes: the address of the detention center: No. 36 Yunxi Road (Renhe Section) Renhe County, Yuhang District, Hangzhou

To the family members of the arrested person


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Radio Free Asia
2017-01-06

■ Authorities in southern China have sentenced a pastor of an unofficial Protestant "house church" to two-and-a-half years in jail on spying charges, his lawyer said.

Pastor Yang Hua of the Huoshi church in the southern province of Guizhou was handed the jail term by the Nanming District People's Court in the provincial capital Guiyang on Wednesday.

Yang Hua, who is also known as Li Guozhi, was initially detained during a raid on Huoshi Church on Dec. 9, 2015, by police who searched his apartment, confiscating computers, disks, and other devices.

His lawyers have accused local prosecutors of torturing Yang in prison and have filed a lawsuit against the officers.
Pastor Yang Hua is shown in church in an undated photo.
ChinaAid

Defense attorney Chen said the sentence was undeserved, and that his client is innocent.

"Even a day in jail is too much for an innocent person," he told RFA. "I have only one thing to say about this. This isn't a judgement: it's persecution."

"This is a political case that has nothing to do with the law or the truth," Chen said. "This is political persecution pure and simple."

Church dispersed

Fellow Huoshi pastor Su Tianfu said the sentence was outrageous and disproportionate, and that the church is now basically dispersed amid an ongoing government crackdown targeting its pastors and followers.

"I think Yang Hua is innocent, and yet they have locked him up for such a long time," said Su, who was himself detained on similar charges but later released on "bail."

"From a legal point of view, the charges against pastor Yang just don't stand up," he said. "How could he have revealed any state secrets?"

"But there's very little we can do about it," he said. "This is a case of political interference, and I think we can say that the law isn't being followed here."

Huoshi accountant Zhang Xiuhong is also being held and is currently awaiting trial, he said.

Yang's wife Wang Hongwu said she learned about the sentencing on Thursday, saying that her husband will likely appeal the sentence, but that he has yet to be allowed a visit from his lawyer.

"They tell me that a meeting isn't possible right now, according to the lawyer," Wang said. "If he is appealing after a sentence, then they can't meet with a lawyer."

"The lawyer may be able to meet with him in about 10 days' time," she said.

Wang told RFA after her husband's Dec. 27 trial that he could only walk with assistance from detention center guards when he was visited by his lawyer.

"I asked why his feet hurt and they said it was to do with the weather, but we don't know the reason," she said.

Religious persecution

Bob Fu, founder of the U.S.-based Christian rights group ChinaAid, hit out at the sentence.

"This is nothing but purely barbaric religious persecution," Fu said in a statement on the group's website.

"We urge President Obama and president-elect Trump to unequivocally condemn this brutal act," he said.

China is home to an estimated 68 million Protestants, of whom 23 million worship in state-affiliated churches, and some nine million Catholics, 5.7 million of whom are in state-sponsored organizations.

But the ruling Chinese Communist Party, which embraces atheism, exercises tight controls over any form of religious practice among its citizens.

And the administration of President Xi Jinping regards Christianity as a dangerous foreign import, with officials warning last year against the "infiltration of Western hostile forces" in the form of religion.

A crackdown on Protestant churches in the eastern province of Zhejiang widened and intensified to other regions of China during 2016, church members have told RFA.

Reported by Hai Nan for RFA's Cantonese Service, and by Qiao Long for the Mandarin Service. Translated by Luisetta Mudie.


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The Christian Post
By Stoyan Zaimov
Jan 9, 2017 | 8:06 am

■ A prominent house church pastor in southwest China's Guizhou province has reportedly been sentenced to two and a half years in prison, allegedly after being tortured into "confessing" charges related to "divulging state secrets."

The South China Morning Post reported on Sunday that 39-year-old Li Guozhi, also known as Pastor Yang Hua with Living Stone Church, is set to seek an appeal over the verdict, which was announced last week.

Chinese Christians have faced violent persecution from police
raids and arrests in 2015. (Photo: Reuters)
Yang has been detained since December 2015, when government officials accused him of trying to prevent authorities from taking his computer and hard drive during a raid on the house church.

Shandong-based lawyer Zhao Yonglin has accused Communist Party officials of ordering the pastor to be be tortured and verbally abused into making confessions last year, although prosecutors have denied this.

"The so-called state secret was a document prepared by a temporary city administrative task force calling for the destruction of Living Stone Church. But the decision itself was illegal and should have been exposed instead," Zhao said.

Living Stone was shut down last year, with officials sealing the church's office and suspending its bank accounts.

Chen Jiangang, another lawyer for the pastor, said that the heart of the case is not about the spying charges, but the ongoing political persecution in China carried out by the government.

"Even a day in jail is too much for an innocent person," Chen told Radio Free Asia. "I have only one thing to say about this. This isn't a judgement: it's persecution."

"This is a political case that has nothing to do with the law or the truth," he added. "This is political persecution pure and simple."

Persecution watchdog groups, such as China Aid, strongly condemned Yang's sentencing.

"This is nothing but purely barbaric religious persecution," said Bob Fu, president and founder of China Aid. "We urge President [Barack] Obama and President-Elect [Donald] Trump to unequivocally condemn this brutal act."

Chinese underground churches have been targeted by a widespread campaign by the government seeking to shut down church gatherings. But state-run churches have also been affected by the ongoing church rooftop-cross removals. Hundreds of Christians and human rights activists have been arrested for protesting the cross removals.

China Aid reported last week that several Christians in China's northern Hebei province were severely beaten by gangs hired by the Communist regime, after church leaders had refused to sell the land to the government.

A church elder with the surname Han revealed the brutality of the attacks Christians protecting Fuxing Church have faced.

"On the morning of Dec. 29, my son and his friend went out to eat, and, when they had finished eating, came out [of the restaurant]. Seven or eight gangsters surrounded them, dragged them from the car and beat them up. His friend was injured so badly that he could barely open his eyes. He was bleeding profusely, and his nose bridge was fractured," Han said.


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Christian Daily
Lorraine Caballero
08 January, 2017 5:46 am

■ Communist gangs hired by authorities severely beat several Christians in Hebei province in China after they resisted the destruction of an officially registered church.

Local officials and land developers reportedly worked together to push state-run congregation Fuxing Church into leaving the building it is using for its meetings and to sign a land transfer deal. A church elder named Han said they were open to moving to another location, but the compensation offered to them was less than the value of the property, China Aid relays.

People attend Sunday service at a makeshift, tin-roofed
church in Youtong village, Hebei Province, China, December
11, 2016. (Reuters / Thomas Pete)
According to Han, the church bought the former school building in 2002 for 3 million Yuan ($362,319 at the time), but the Communist Party only offered them less than 2 million Yuan (currently $289,080) for it. Fuxing Church refused to sign the land deal because the property's current value should already be more than 15 million Yuan ($2.17 million).

Because of their refusal to agree to the deal, the land developers paid gang members to destroy Fuxing Church's circuit breaker. A local pastor, who spoke under condition of anonymity, said the church pastors asked for help but the gangsters beat up the Christians who responded to the incident.

"We are prepared to petition the provincial government. First of all, we are not violating any laws. Secondly, we are defending our legal rights," said Han, according to China Aid. "The believers are not afraid of any consequences, even death. Today [Jan. 2], the [Christian] brothers, sisters, and leaders from every church throughout the Langfang area came to support us, promising that they would accompany us even to Beijing. We have about six or seven thousand believers now."

China's ruling Communist Party continues in its efforts to suppress Christian practices in the country. Last month, a hotel in the province of Zhejiang scrapped two Christmas services that local churches planned to hold there after the government sent it a warning, Radio Free Asia reports.

The move to stop the Christmas services comes in the wake of a prolonged cross removal and demolition campaign by local authorities. Aside from that, the Zhejiang authorities have also banned unofficial "house churches" and any kind of religious activity in medical institutions.



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The Epoch Times
By Rona Rui, Epoch Times and Larry Ong, Epoch Times |
January 3, 2017 AT 6:07 pm
Last Updated: January 3, 2017 6:08 pm

■ For the past decade, Shanghai-based human rights lawyer Zheng Enchong had to notify the police three days in advance if he wanted to visit his elder brother in the city. If Zheng was permitted to leave home, he would be closely shadowed by a group of security agents.

In the final two months of 2016, however, Zheng suddenly found state surveillance of him and his wife greatly relaxed.

“Nobody follows my wife Jiang Meili when she goes shopping, and the police have also stopped following me,” Zheng said. “The sentries outside my door are more preoccupied with speculating in stocks on their cellphones. Now only three security agents are assigned to tail me, and they no longer have me on curfew.”

Zheng Enchong, a Shanghai-based human rights lawyer.
(Epoch Times)
Zheng, 66, was handed a three-year prison sentence in 2003 for choosing to defend disenfranchised families in Shanghai and thus oppose members of the “Shanghai Gang,” a powerful political clique headed by former Communist Party chief Jiang Zemin.

Zheng was placed under strict house arrest immediately upon his release. From time to time, Zheng found himself locked away in detention facilities, where he was brutally abused and tortured by Chinese security officers. In June 2009, international human rights groups condemned a particularly severe case of abuse where Zheng said that the police used on him the same cruel torture methods they were applying to Falun Gong practitioners.

But since March 2016, Zheng has been reporting a gradual loosening of the restrictions on him. This development appeared to coincide with his obtaining information from “extremely reliable” channels that Jiang Zemin and his two sons are being placed under some form of control.

In July, Zheng and his wife Jiang Meili (no relation to Jiang Zemin) were whisked away by security agents to an offshore resort for a five-day session of coercion and attempted cooptation. The security personnel plied the couple with fine wine and gourmet cuisine, and tried to cut a deal with Zheng in exchange for his promise to stop divulging politically sensitive information to the press. Zheng, however, refused the luxurious spread and the attempt to buy his silence.

Then on Christmas Day, Zheng, a Christian, was allowed the best treatment so far.

“On Christmas morning, I participated in activities organized by the state church, and in the afternoon, I attended a house church event,” Zheng Enchong said.

Of course, Zheng was still accompanied by police and security agents. But they openly expressed goodwill to him, and some even confided that their relatives were devout Christians.

“My mother visits that church in Zhabei District that we were at several times a week. The next time you go to church, I’m prepared to be a believer,” Zheng recalled an agent saying.

Communist Party cadres are nominally required to be atheists, but the rule is unevenly enforced.

By 10 in the evening, Zheng was done with the Christmas festivities, and tried to board a subway home. But the security agents insisted on hailing a taxi to ferry him back, a show of generosity that could be down to their recently improved remuneration for watching him, Zheng says.

“The authorities increased the pay of those monitoring me by 600 yuan, and give them 300 yuan if they work overtime,” he said. “They get an additional 300 yuan for transport and food whenever they accompany me away from home.”

Zheng Enchong believes that the letting up of surveillance is related to the changing political situation in China.

On Dec. 28, Xinhua carried a report from a high level meeting chaired by Chinese leader Xi Jinping which declared that, “the battle against corruption has gained crushing momentum.” Xi’s anti-corruption campaign has thus far targeted members of Jiang Zemin’s faction; Xi had previously refrained from highlighting the campaign’s successes in such glowing terms.


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The Christian Times
Kaye Garcia
04 January, 2017

■ A Christian woman from Xinjiang, China, was sentenced to three years in prison for holding a Bible study.

Ma Huichao received the sentence on Dec. 30, and her lawyer, Li Dunyong, was not permitted to plead innocent on her behalf, according to China Aid. The woman stood trial in mid-November after being arrested, along with four other Christians, by Chinese authorities for "gathering a crowd to disturb public order." She does not plan to appeal her case.

Ma's arrest is just one of the cases of Christian persecution and human rights abuses in the XinJian region.

In October 2016, China Aid also reported that a Christian couple, Dai and his wife, Li, were detained for displaying a cross in their house in Xinjiang. Authorities also searched their home, which was being used to host a house church, and confiscated religious items.

Christians attend a Sunday service at Shouwang Church in
Beijing. (Reuters/Petar Kujundzic)
A few months earlier, two women, Zhou Yanhua and Gao Ming, who are members of Yining County Church also from the same region, were arrested for educating teenagers about religious and superstitious beliefs.

Christian persecution is not limited in the Xinjiang region. In China, a communist country, authorities have been going after underground or non-state sanctioned churches and religious gatherings. The past few years saw the arrest of numerous followers and preachers of the Christian faith for "disturbing public order."

The crackdown on non-government sanctioned Christian organizations was further legitimized with the implementation of the Revised Draft of Regulations on Religious Affairs starting October 2016. The regulation further mandated against "organising citizens to attend religious training, conferences and activities abroad." The acts of "preaching, organizing religious activities, and establishing religious institutions or religious sites at schools," and "providing religious services through the internet" are also not permitted, The Christian Post reports.

Between October and November, several arrests have been made of people suspected of engaging in "evil cults" activities. Those arrested, however, turned out to be Christians who said they knew nothing about the accusations hurled against them.


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Radio Free Asia
2017-01-05

■ A prominent Chinese human rights lawyer held in an unknown location on suspicion of subversion is at risk of torture or other ill-treatment, an international rights group has warned.

Jiang Tianyong, who went missing on Nov. 21 in the central city of Changsha, is now confirmed by police as detained under "residential surveillance in a designated location" on suspicion of "inciting subversion of state power."

Rights lawyer Jiang Tianyong, who went missing on Nov. 21,
2016, after meeting relatives of jailed lawyers, in an undated
photo. RFA
But London-based Amnesty International has issued an urgent alert on Jiang's case, saying that he is judged to be at risk because his whereabouts are unknown, and he has been refused permission to meet with a lawyer or family members.

"Jiang Tianyong is a well-known human rights lawyer, whose activism resulted in him being disbarred in 2009," the group said in an "Urgent Action" notice.

"He has since continued his work as a human rights defender, despite suffering ongoing harassment, detention and physical beatings," it said.

It called on its members to press for Jiang's immediate release, and to urge the authorities to protect him from torture or other ill-treatment.

Jiang should also be granted access to his family, a lawyer of his choice and adequate medical care, it said.

Jiang's father Jiang Lianghou said the family is extremely concerned about him.

"Who wouldn't be worried? It has been more than a month, nearly two months, and we still don't know where he is," he told RFA in an interview earlier this week.

Jiang Lianghou, father of Jiang Tianyong, says he received a
notice from the Changsha municipal government that his son
is being held under a specific type of 'coercive measures'
linked to state security charges.
Photo courtesy of rights activists
Detained in Changsha

Jiang is currently being investigated for "fraudulent use of identification," "illegal possession of state secrets," and "illegally providing state secrets," official media have reported.

He was detained by China's railway police at Changsha Railway Station while attempting to use someone else's ID card to buy a ticket for the D940 express train back to Beijing, and initially held under administrative detention.

Jiang's father Jiang Lianghou received an official notification on Dec. 31 from the Changsha municipal government that his son is being held under a specific type of "coercive measures" linked to state security charges, which allow the authorities to hold a suspect incommunicado for up to six months under criminal law.

Their lawyer, Chen Jinxue, said his requests to meet with Jiang had been refused by the Changsha police department.

"The grounds for refusal was that a meeting could hinder the investigation or leak state secrets, but that is far too vague," Chen said in a recent interview.

"I wanted them to be more specific about what state secrets might be leaked as a result," he said.

Meanwhile, a court in Shanghai has agreed to accept a crowdfunded lawsuit alleging that media reporting of the detention had defamed Jiang, sources told RFA.

The family is suing the Procuratorate Daily, the Southern Metropolis Daily, The Paper, and the Legal Daily newspapers, among other outlets, for damaging their son's reputation and prejudicing due legal process.

The acceptance of the libel suit by Shanghai's Jingan District People's Court comes after similar lawsuits were rejected by courts in Beijing and Guangzhou.

"I hope this gets as far as a hearing," Chen told RFA after the decision was announced. "But there are no guarantees that the process will get that far; they still have the option to reject it as inappropriate."

"We tried to file at the Chaoyang District People's Court in Beijing and at the Yuexiu District People's Court in Guangzhou," Chen said.

"They wouldn't take the cases [we] filed there; they wouldn't accept any files, nor issue any documentation about it whatsoever," he said.

Fengrui law firm raid

More than 300 lawyers, law firm staff, rights activists and relatives were detained, questioned, or placed under surveillance or other restrictions since police launched a nationwide crackdown on the profession with a July 9, 2015, raid on Beijing's Fengrui law firm.

Fengrui lawyer Liu Xiaoyuan said that even some of those detained and later released on "bail" remain under restrictions, and haven't returned to normal life since.

"The criminal case against them has lapsed after a year, so the authorities can no longer prosecute them," Liu said. "From a legal point of view, they should be at liberty, but they haven't come back to the firm to take up their old jobs."

"They dare not come back, and basically there's nobody working here at Fengrui anymore," he said. "It exists in name only."

At least 16 remain in criminal detention on subversion charges, while four have been handed jail terms of up to seven years, according to the Hong Kong-based Chinese Human Rights Lawyers Concern Group.

Many others have been denied access to lawyers, and to family visits.

Reported by Yang Fan for RFA's Mandarin Service, and by Wong Lok-to for the Cantonese Service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.


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Yang Hua
(Photo: China Aid)
China Aid

(Guiyang, Guizhou—Jan. 5, 2017) Yang Hua, a house church pastor who has been detained since Dec. 9, 2015, was sentenced to two years and six months in prison by a court in China’s central Guizhou province today.

Yang Hua, the common pseudonym of Li Guozhi, was accused of “divulging state secrets.” He was originally detained during a raid on his church, Huoshi Church, when he tried to stop police from confiscating a hard drive. The prosecution appointed by the government reportedly tortured him in prison, but were not removed from his case, despite Yang’s lawyers filing a lawsuit against them.

“This is nothing but purely barbaric religious persecution," said Bob Fu, president and founder of China Aid. “We urge President Obama and President-Elect Trump to unequivocally condemn this brutal act.”

China Aid reports on cases of religious persecution and human rights abuse, such as the detention and trial of Yang Hua, in order to expose the Chinese government’s mistreatment of Christians and other Chinese citizens.


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The Gospel Herald
Jan 03, 2017 11:33 am EST

■ A Christian woman in China has been sentenced to three years in prison for holding a Bible study amid an ongoing crackdown on believers in the country.

According to persecution watchdog China Aid, Ma Huichao was taken into police custody along with four other Christians back in November when officials claimed their Bible study met without government approval.

She later stood trial for "gathering a crowd to disturb public order," and her lawyer, Li Dunyong, was disallowed to plead innocent on her behalf. A court in China's western Xinjiang subsequently handed Me a three-year prison sentence which began on Dec. 30. The outlet notes that Ma does not plan to appeal her sentence.

Photo: People pray at a small Protestant underground church
that operates in a shopfront in Beijing
Wayne Mcallister, ABC News
While China officially guarantees freedom of religion, ruling Communist Party officials are sometimes suspicious of religious groups, fearing that opposition to its rule could be spread by groups outside its control. Last year, President Xi Jinping called for religions to adapt to Chinese society, which he referred to as the "sinicization of religion."

Since then, a number of house churches not sanctioned by the government have been forced to disband and hundreds of pastors and Christian worshipers arrested for "disturbing public order."

The party has also been restricting the work of foreign nongovernmental organizations, and in October, enacted the Revised Draft of Regulations on Religious Affairs. Among other restrictions, the new laws establish prohibitions on "organizing citizens to attend religious training, conferences and activities abroad," "preaching, organizing religious activities, and establishing religious institutions or religious sites at schools," and "providing religious services through the internet."

In an attempt to stifle the growth of Christianity, authorities have removed some 1,800 crosses from churches and beaten and arrested dissenting church members. The Communist Party has also cracked down on human rights lawyers: Since July 2015, over 260 lawyers and activists have been questioned by police, detained or charged with subverting state power, according to statistics from Amnesty International. Most were released shortly thereafter, according to the New York Times, but some are still in detention and awaiting trial on criminal charges.

Amid ongoing persecution, Beijing-based Christian human rights lawyer Zhang Kai wrote on his blog: "Seeking justice, promoting reconciliation and advancing rule of law are an historic mission, called for by God, that Christian lawyers must answer and cannot shirk. Confronted with cases of oppression of Christian belief, more Christian lawyers are willing to withstand the pressure and walk alongside those who suffer."


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A Christian, whose face has
been blurred for security
purposes, shows the beatings
he received at the hands of
the authorities.
(Photo: China Aid)
China Aid

(Langfang, Hebei—Jan. 4, 2017) Several Christians in China’s northern Hebei province were hospitalized with serious injuries after gang members hired by authorities attacked them for resisting the destruction of church property on Thursday. Local Christians have taken to protest after the hospitalizations.

Local officials plotted with land developers to coerce Fuxing Church, a state-run congregation meeting in a former school building, to sign a land transfer agreement, which would force the church to move. Fuxing Church is an officially registered church in the Three-Self Patriotic Movement, China’s government-controlled Protestant church.

A church elder surnamed Han asserted that the church exists legally, was sanctioned by the government, and was open to relocating. However, the Communist Party offered them less than 2 million Yuan [$287,534.00 USD] in compensation, and they purchased the property for 3 million Yuan in 2002 [$362,319.00 USD at the time]. According to Han’s estimates, given the current price of housing, officials should have offered more than 15 million Yuan [$2,156,505.00 USD]. Because of the great discrepancy in value, the church members opposed the signing of the agreement.

In response, the developers hired gang members to destroy the church’s circuit breaker. An anonymous pastor from Shandong province said, “Fuxing Church’s pastors called for help, saying that [gang members] were destroying their church’s circuit breaker. When Christians working inside the church came out to put a stop to it, they were injured.”

Additionally, Han said, “On the morning of Dec. 29, my son and his friend went out to eat, and, when they had finished eating, came out [of the restaurant]. Seven or eight gangsters surrounded them, dragged them from the car and beat them up. His friend was injured so badly that he could barely open his eyes. He was bleeding profusely, and his nose bridge was fractured. The police came out after I reported the case, but they colluded with the gangsters. We went to the police station and recorded the incident, but nothing was done about it. On the next day, several church elders went to the municipal government to petition.”

Church members repeatedly visited government offices, but officials refused to do anything about this incident. After the Christians visited the public security bureau, gang members smashed the church’s power meter and harassed its members, who returned to petitioning government offices until authorities pressured Han to persuade them to stop.

“We are prepared to petition the provincial government,” Han said. “First of all, we are not violating any laws. Secondly, we are defending our legal rights. The believers are not afraid of any consequences, even death. Today [Jan. 2], the [Christian] brothers, sisters, and leaders from every church throughout the Langfang area came to support us, promising that they would accompany us even to Beijing. We have about six or seven thousand believers now.”

China Aid exposes abuses, such as those suffered by Fuxing Church members, in order to stand in solidarity with persecuted Christians and promote religious freedom, human rights, and rule of law in China.


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Christian Today
James Macintyre 
Published 04 January 2017

■ A Christian woman in China who was beaten repeatedly by officials and suffered two miscarriages as a result is in need of urgent cancer treatment that she cannot afford, according to a Christian charity.

China Aid reported that Huang Yan, a 47-year-old human rights defender, has been refused a necessary operation for her ovarian cancer, despite previously having undergone one in the autumn of 2013.

Huang Yan, a Chinese Christian human rights defender who
was beaten by the authorities, suffered two miscarriages and
now needs urgent treatment for cancer
China Aid
The non-profit organisation said that "public security bureau officials" beat Huang in 2010 and 2012 and she lost her unborn children both times. According to China Aid, "during the second instance the officials burst into the bathroom, where she had just miscarried her child, and continued to abuse her."

At the time of that second attack, her husband was reportedly taken to the public security bureau "and received injuries at the hands of the authorities."

Since then, Huang developed cancer on top of diabetes and other threatening conditions.

According to China Aid, Huang suspects that medical staff were pressured by government officials not to allow her treatment because of her human rights work with other Christians.

"Recently, she arrived in a safe environment and is awaiting the approval of a medical visa to Taiwan," the charity said. "If the Taiwanese government refuses to grant her a visa, she is in a location where she can receive medical treatment as a backup plan. However, she needs financial assistance in order to be able to have this important procedure".

China Aid is currently taking emergency donations on her behalf.

On 26 November, Huang was arrested on what China Aid called "falsified charges of spreading false terrorist information."

Then, when she was transferred to Guangzhou No. 2 Detention Centrelate last year, her charge was changed to "obstructing official business."

The charity reported that while Huang was imprisoned, she was treated at a military police hospital, where "she was restrained with 23-pound and 15-pound shackles, subjected to 12 ultrasounds in four days, and coerced to take a drug. The 15-pound restraints remained on her ankles for so long that they began to bleed and waste away."

China Aid "supports Chinese Christians who are persecuted for their faith like Huang Yan, and assists persecuted Christians in promoting religious freedom, human rights, and rule of law."


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