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Dear friends of the persecuted,

Among the 17 countries that the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) has recommended in 2015 as “Countries of Particular Concern” (CPC), a designation for governments that engage or tolerate severe violations of religious freedom that are “systematic, ongoing and egregious,” five are from the Asia Pacific. And of the ten countries that are listed on USCIRF’s Tier 2 watch list, five are located in the Asia Pacific.

Several countries, including China, have been included on USCIRF’s CPC recommendation list since the U.S. Congress passed the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998 and created both USCIRF and the Office of International Religious Freedom at the State Department.

Religious communities are under attack and suffering persecution in North Korea, China, Pakistan, and Burma, among numerous other countries throughout the Asia Pacific region, and thus require a collaborative and unified response to combat these human rights violations.

In light of the global focus on addressing religious extremism and terrorism in the Middle East, including the atrocities carried out by ISIL/ISIS, China Aid is co-hosting the Asia Pacific Religious Freedom Forum (APRFF) from February 18-21. The forum aims to keep a light shined on religious freedom abuse in the Asia Pacific region and identify strategies and mechanisms to combat ongoing religious persecution.

As you read this issue of China Aid’s newsletter, the Asia Pacific Religious Freedom Forum (APRFF) will already be underway in Taiwan, which, in contrast to the mainland, has been recognized as a regional model for protecting religious freedom and related human rights.

APRFF delegates from Parliaments, non-governmental organizations, and religious communities representing various nations will be gathered together in Taiwan to declare to those persecuted for their faith in the Asia Pacific that their voices will not go unheard or unanswered.

It is my prayer that those persecuted for their faith will hear the calls for justice, religious freedom and basic human rights that will emerge from the APRFF.

Thank you for your continued prayers.



Expose, Encourage
China formally arrests human rights lawyers

Seven months after authorities detained hundreds of human rights defense lawyers, other legal professionals and rights advocates, more than a dozen were formally arrested in mid-January.

China Aid has closely followed the cases of lawyers Li Heping, Wang Yu, her husband Bao Longjun, and church elder Hu Shigen since they were taken into custody in the widespread crackdown on lawyers and advocates that began on July 9, 2015.

Li Heping
Wang Yu, a lawyer at Fengrui Law Firm, and her husband Bao Longjun, a human rights advocate and lawyer, were formally arrested on Jan. 13. Wang was charged with “subversion of state power,” which carries a sentence of 10 years to life in prison, and Bao was charged with “inciting subversion of state power,” a lesser charge carrying a sentence of 5-15 years. Both are being held in China’s northern Tianjin Municipality.

On Jan. 14, Hu Shigen, the elder of a Beijing house church who was detained on July 10 in connection with the crackdown, was formally arrested and charged with “subversion of state power,” according to his family, who received a notice from the Tianjin Municipal Public Security Bureau.

China Aid then learned of the arrest of human rights lawyer Li Heping on Jan. 19 after Li’s wife and lawyer went to the Tianjin Municipal Detention Center No. 1 to inquire about his whereabouts. Li’s lawyer later learned from a police officer that Li’s arrest was approved on Jan. 8; however, Li’s wife did not receive the arrest notice until Jan. 20.

Other notable detainees formally arrested for “subversion of state power” include: Li Chunfu, human rights lawyer and the brother of Li Heping; Zhou Shifeng, the director of Fengrui Law Firm; Wang Quanzhang, a Fengrui Law Firm lawyer; Li Shuyun, a Fengrui Law Firm lawyer; Liu Sixin, a Fengrui Law Firm administrative assistant; and Zhao Wei, assistant to Li Heping.

Of the 19 individuals who have been formally arrested, 11 were charged with “subversion of state power.”

China Aid exposes abuses, such as those experienced by the more than 315 Chinese citizens directly affected by the July crackdown, and encourages the abused by supporting their families in order to promote religious freedom and rule of law in China.



Expose
Church demolished, crosses removed
Authorities manhandle a Christian
protester.


Authorities in the neighboring Chinese coastal Fujian and Zhejiang provinces conducted a church demolition and two cross removals on Jan. 6 and Jan. 7, respectively.

Videos sent to China Aid showed officials in Fuqing, Fujian, demolishing Yulin Furen Christian Church on Jan. 6 for failure to register with the local government.

“Previously, it was registered and approved, but not in recent years,” an individual from the Fuqing Christian Association said. “At this time, a real estate certificate is required for registration [in Fuqing] … [Therefore], we cannot just go register, even if we want to do so. There are still many [churches] that have not registered.”

On Jan. 7, government personnel in Wenzhou, Zhejiang, forcibly demolished Nanhu Church’s and Wutian Dongzhuang Church’s crosses. Christians at both churches attempted to stop the officials, resulting in a scuffle and the detention of several church members.

“It is the sub-district and city management [officials] that united to demolish [the crosses],” a Wenzhou police officer said when China Aid called to inquire about the incident. “We only maintained order.”

China Aid exposes religious freedom abuses, such as those experienced in cases of forced demolitions, in order to promote religious freedom and rule of law in China.



Expose
Pastor arrested after opposing cross demos


Pastor Gu “Joseph” Yuese
Authorities in China’s coastal Zhejiang province charged the chairman of the provincial Chinese Christian Council (CCC) with embezzlement and re-assigned all ministerial leadership under him to different churches following his dismissal from his position of senior pastor China’s largest government-approved church in late January.

Pastor Gu “Joseph” Yuese of Hangzhou’s Chongyi Church was forcibly removed from his position as senior pastor according to a Jan. 18 document released by the local TSPM and CCC because of his public opposition to the hundreds of forced cross demolitions throughout Zhejiang since early 2014.

Gu’s family received an arrest notice on Jan. 28, stating that Gu was placed under “residential surveillance in a designated location,” a situation commonly known by experts as a black jail. Authorities also detained Gu’s wife, Zhou Lianmei, for a day and warned her not to leave the country.

On Jan. 30, China Aid learned that Gu was charged with “embezzling 10 million Yuan (U.S. $1.6 million) in funds.”

“His arrest marks a major escalation in the crackdown against those who oppose the forced demolition of crosses,” China Aid’s Bob Fu said. “He will be the highest-ranking national church leader arrested since the Cultural Revolution.”

China Aid reports cases like Gu’s in order to exposes religious freedom abuses in China.


China Aid Contacts
Rachel Ritchie, English Media Director
Cell: (432) 553-1080 | Office: 1+ (888) 889-7757 | Other: (432) 689-6985
Email: r.ritchie@chinaaid.org
Website: www.chinaaid.org
Christian Today
Carey Lodge 
09 February 2016

■ A Chinese pastor imprisoned in so-called 'black jail' for opposing a government crackdown on Christianity has been released, activists have confirmed.

Pastor Huang Yizi, from the eastern province of Zhejiang, was formally placed under criminal detention on 12 September 2015 for "endangering national security." He was accused of "stealing, spying on, buying or illegally providing state secrets for institutions and people outside the country" and was not allowed access to a lawyer or to speak with his family.

Human rights organisation China Aid received confirmation on Friday that Huang had been freed, just under five months after his arrest.

Founder and president of China Aid, Bob Fu, told Christian Today that the pastor looks "pale and thin", and that Huang has said he was under huge pressure and threat before his release.

Huang previously served a one year sentence for leading a prayer vigil against cross demolitions in Zhejiang but was released on 1 August last year. Police had attempted to remove a cross from the roof of Sjuitou Salvation Church in July 2014, resulting in a bloody clash with members who were guarding the building.

Officers reportedly used iron batons to beat those who stood in their way, and one member of the congregation suffered a fractured skull. The cross was eventually removed from the church building.

Huang Yizi (L) following his release from a black jail.
China Aid
Huang then gathered a crowd from his congregation at a government building to demand answers about the incident. He also urged other church leaders to put back crosses which had been removed from their buildings and criticised police violence on his blog. He branded the removal of church crosses an example of "severe persecution" and an "insult" to China's Christians.

He leads Fengwo Church in Wenzhou, a city dubbed the "Jerusalem of the East" for reportedly having the largest Christian community in China.

The pastor was among at least 20 Christians from Wenzhou and Jinhua, also in Zhejiang province, to be held in black jail towards the end of last year.

'Black jails' have no legal status, though the official wording states that detainees are being kept under "residential surveillance in a designed location". China Aid has noted that torture is common, and inmates are refused physical, written or verbal communication with family members or legal representatives.

"We are glad pastor Huang is released home for Chinese New Year after being arbitrarily detained for five months in a black jail," Fu said today.

"Both the previous one year criminal sentence and the past five months detention are absolutely part of political revenge against pastor Huang's public opposition against the barbaric forced demolition of crosses and his effort for organizing true Gospel mission independent of the government controlled religious body, the TSPM [Three Self Patriotic Movement].

"I call upon the Chinese higher authorities to hold accountable of those abusers of power (in its arbitrary nature of pastor Huang's detention) in Zhejiang and restore justice to pastor Huang."

Up to 1,700 churches in Zhejiang have been demolished or had their crosses removed as part of a three-year 'Three Rectifications and One Demolition' campaign, supposedly with the aim of exposing and removing "illegal structures". However, it is widely seen as a move to combat the increasing influence of Christianity in the country.


China Aid Contacts
Rachel Ritchie, English Media Director
Cell: (432) 553-1080 | Office: 1+ (888) 889-7757 | Other: (432) 689-6985
Email: r.ritchie@chinaaid.org
Website: www.chinaaid.org
The Guardian
By Stuart Leavenworth in Beijing
Sunday 7 February 2016 01.09 EST
Last modified on Sunday 7 February 2016 22.12 EST

■ The Rev Gu Yuese is believed to be the most senior government-sanctioned clergyman to be arrested since the Cultural Revolution

China has formally arrested a prominent Protestant church leader who last year criticised a law sanctioning government removal of church crosses.

Authorities in Zhejiang province arrested the Rev Gu Yuese on Saturday, according to documents issued by the people’s procuratorate of Hangzhou city. He was detained in late January, accused of embezzling funds.

Supporters of Gu, former chief pastor at Chongyi church, said the government arrested him on trumped-up charges and was punishing him for publicly opposing the removal of church crucifixes. Authorities have taken down hundreds of crosses in Zheijiang, a province on the east coast often described as China’s bible belt.

Bob Fu, director of a Texas group called ChinaAid that provides legal assistance to Christians in China, said that Gu’s detention and arrest was an attempt to intimidate the country’s entire church officialdom.

Christians protest at the removal of crosses from their church
in Yongjia in eastern China's Zhejiang province.
Photograph: Mark Schiefelbein/AP
“They want to send a message that if you show disloyalty to the party’s religious policy, this is what is going to happen,” Fu said in a telephone interview.

Fu said that’s Gu case is significant because he was the highest-level government Christian official to be detained since the anti-church crackdowns of the Cultural Revolution. Until his detention, Gu led China’s largest government-authorised church, which seats 5,000 people in Hangzhou, the capital of Zhejiang.

Gu, who is being held in the Hangzhou detention centre, has been replaced by a new pastor, Zhang Zhongcheng, appointed by the government.

Through his lawyers, Gu issued a statement in Chinese that, according to a translation provided by Fu, urged his congregation to support Zhang Zhongcheng and not to “rally around” his own case. Fu said the statement was likely orchestrated by the government to calm Gu’s followers and lend legitimacy to the prosecution. In the statement, Gu said he was cooperating with investigators.

By some estimates, China is home to as many as 100 million Christians, higher than the Communist party’s 88 million members. Government agencies and scholars put the figures much lower, at 30 to 50 million Christians.

Over the last three years, government authorities have removed hundreds of crosses from churches, with officials saying the removals are being done for public safety reasons.

Authorities have also flattened several churches, including the Sanjiang mega-church in Wenzhou, a city known as “China’s Jerusalem” because of its large congregation. They have also detained people lending aid to the area’s Christian community, including Zhang Kai, a prominent Beijing human rights lawyer.

Fu said he was highly concerned about Gu’s safety, and believed he had been coerced by police into issuing the statement to his former congregation.

“I hope the international community will recognize this is a case of violation of religious freedom and rule of law, and press for his release,” he said.


China Aid Contacts
Rachel Ritchie, English Media Director
Cell: (432) 553-1080 | Office: 1+ (888) 889-7757 | Other: (432) 689-6985
Email: r.ritchie@chinaaid.org
Website: www.chinaaid.org
BBC
5 February 2016

■ China has banned retired Communist Party members from believing in a religion or practising religious activities, state media report.

China is officially atheist but says it guarantees religious freedom.

However, serving Communist Party members are not expected to be religious.

Newly published Party rules now say retired officials are also barred from religion and must oppose cults, state media said.

The regulations were issued by the Communist Party's powerful Organization Department.

Chinese media quoted an official, explaining the new regulations, as saying: "There are clear rules that retired cadres and party members cannot believe in religion, cannot take part in religious activities, and must resolutely fight against cults."

China's constitution guarantees religious freedom, although
religious activities are tightly controlled (file photo)
AFP
Retired officials should "maintain a high degree of consistency, in thought, in political views and in action, with the central party committee which is headed by Xi Jinping", the official added.

China's constitution guarantees religious freedom, but in practise religious activities are tightly controlled.

All churches have to be approved by the state and authorities keep a close eye on their activities to contain their influence.

Muslims in Xinjiang have also faced restrictions on their religious activities, while the Falun Gong spiritual movement has been denounced as an "evil cult" and has been banned since 1999.


China Aid Contacts
Rachel Ritchie, English Media Director
Cell: (432) 553-1080 | Office: 1+ (888) 889-7757 | Other: (432) 689-6985
Email: r.ritchie@chinaaid.org
Website: www.chinaaid.org
Christian Science Monitor
By Robert Marquand
February 5, 2016

■ US officials call for release of leading pastors detained in China. Pastor Li Guanzhong and his wife were detained Jan. 29, days after the head of China's biggest megachurch was sent to a 'black jail.'

Days after authorities plunked China’s most prominent Protestant leader, Joseph Gu, into an isolated “black jail,” police in the same eastern coastal province of Zhejiang have detained another leading pastor who has been defying the Communist Party on religious grounds.

Pastor Li Guanzhong and his wife were detained Jan. 29, according to members of his church, as part of what appears to be the toughest crackdown on civil society, including Christians, since Mao Zedong’s Cultural Revolution of the 1960s.

US State Department officials on Thursday called on China to release Pastor Gu and other church figures under detention, and to “respect … freedom of religion.”

The moves by Chinese authorities are seen as an escalation by the Party-state to subdue interest in Christianity as it becomes more widespread and popular in a rising power that has abandoned anti-capitalist Marxist ideology and is looking for spiritual values.

Mr. Li has for three decades been a Protestant church leader in Zhejiang and chairs his official county Christian council.

Members of Yayu Christian Church gathered in a hall during
their turns to protect the rooftop cross from being demolished
at the church in Yaxia village in eastern China's Zhejiang
Province, July 16, 2014.
Didi Tang/AP/File
Last week authorities detained Gu, leader of China’s largest evangelical church, Chongyi, in Hangzhou, originally founded in the 19th century. Gu, who styled his expansive modern church along the lines of US pastor Rick Warren’s Saddleback megachurch in California, is also a Standing Committee member of the national council of official Protestant churches. He, like Li, is being held incommunicado on criminal charges.

The action against Pastor Li brings to eight the number of Protestant pastors held under arbitrary detention in Zhejiang since last July, the apogee of a state-run “cross demolition” campaign that has seen nearly 1,700 crosses forcibly removed from atop churches since 2014 and has deeply angered a religious minority.

Since Jan. 1, 18 crosses have been toppled from churches in Zhejiang, according to the Texas-based China Aid, including edifices in the city of Wenzhou, often called “China’s Jerusalem” for its proliferation of evangelical churches and more than 1 million believers.

While charges against the eight church leaders range from embezzlement to bribery to fomenting instability, one thing all detainees have in common is their public opposition to the anti-cross campaign. Li fiercely opposed efforts to remove the cross from his church in the city of Jinhua and this month tried to block efforts by security officials to put a Chinese flag atop his church.

All eight detainees are part of the official Protestant “Three Self” church organization – a group that for years has considered itself loyal and patriotic and not part of the broader “house church” movement that continues to thrive, mostly underground, in China.

On Thursday a State Department spokesman told the Monitor that China should release Gu and others, including well-known lawyer Zhang Kai. Mr. Kai has taken evangelical cases, and disappeared last summer shortly before a scheduled meeting with the US envoy for religious freedom, Amb. David Saperstein, who was in China at the invitation of the Xi Jinping government.

“We call on Chinese authorities to immediately release Pastor Gu and other detained religious leaders and activists, including human rights lawyer Zhang Kai and to cease the ongoing cross removal campaign in Zhejiang province,” according to the statement.

The State Department also called upon Chinese authorities “to respect internationally recognized rights of freedom of association, freedom of religion, and access to legal counsel.”

The Obama administration has been chary to criticize China in its slowly evolving pushback against churches, which is mainly concentrated in one province in China and mainly against public symbols, like crosses.

But the criminal charges against Gu and other prominent figures have appeared to many in the international Christian community as something of an unhappy escalation.

“It is good that the Obama administration remind the Chinese government that its actions neither occur in a vacuum nor go without notice,” says Loyola University expert on Christianity in China Carsten Vala. “Rather, as a world power China's actions are under scrutiny and expected to observe international norms.”

The concern among some civil society advocates in the West is that China is slowly evolving a new phase of “thought crime” related to ideas about open society. In recent weeks China apparently abducted five booksellers from Hong Kong and a Chinese journalist in Thailand, closed a well-respected women’s legal aid center in Beijing that was founded in the mid-1990s during the UN conference on women, and orchestrated a series of public “forced confessions” on state television, and brought formal charges against nearly 20 human rights lawyers.


China Aid Contacts
Rachel Ritchie, English Media Director
Cell: (432) 553-1080 | Office: 1+ (888) 889-7757 | Other: (432) 689-6985
Email: r.ritchie@chinaaid.org
Website: www.chinaaid.org
A translation of Gu's statement is
forthcoming. (Photo: China Aid)
China Aid
By Rachel Ritchie

(Hangzhou, Zhejiang—Feb. 6, 2015) Authorities in China’s coastal Zhejiang formally arrested a pastor who served at China’s largest government-sanctioned church and as the chairman of the provincial China Christian Council (CCC) at 5 p.m. (China Standard Time) today.

Pastor Gu “Joseph” Yuese was formally arrested today after being removed from his position as the senior pastor of Hangzhou’s Chongyi Church, China’s largest Three-Self Patriotic Movement Church, on Jan. 18.

On Jan. 28, Gu was taken into custody and placed under “residential surveillance at a designated location.” Gu’s wife was also detained and threatened to not leave the country; she has since been released.

Gu is currently being held at the Hangzhou Detention Center for the charge of “embezzling funds,” according to a notice from the Hangzhou Municipal Procuratorate received by Gu’s family. Gu’s troubles are suspected of being a result of his opposition to the persecution campaign that has resulted in the demolition of thousands of church crosses in Zhejiang.

Gu also released a statement via his lawyers, He Xiangyang and Xie Bingbing, that appears to have been orchestrated by the government as a form of “social stability maintenance.” The statement, dated Feb. 4, is formatted as a question-and-answer session between Gu and his lawyers.

In the statement, Gu addresses the congregation of Chongyi Church, calling upon them to pray, obey the teachings of the Bible, and support Pastor Zhang Zhongcheng, whom the government appointed to lead Chongyi Church after removing Gu. 

Gu also said in the statement that he is cooperating with the government investigation and urged the congregation to remain calm by not “rallying around” his case. 

“After this subtle statement, I am deeply concerned that Pastor Gu is under enormous pressure,” Bob Fu, president and founder of China Aid said. “The world knows very well that this is a case of political retribution by the Chinese authorities for Pastor Gu’s public opposition of the barbaric, ongoing cross removal campaign. Instead of criminalizing a defender of religious freedom, like Pastor Gu, the Chinese authorities should take concrete action and hold those abusive individuals responsible for these brutal crackdowns accountable.”


China Aid Contacts
Rachel Ritchie, English Media Director
Cell: (432) 553-1080 | Office: 1+ (888) 889-7757 | Other: (432) 689-6985
Email: r.ritchie@chinaaid.org
Website: www.chinaaid.org
Huang Yizi (left) just following his
release from a black jail.
(Photo: China Aid)
China Aid
By Ava Collins

(Wenzhou, Zhejiang—Feb. 5, 2016) China Aid received confirmation today that authorities have released a church pastor in China’s coastal Zhejiang, detained since Sept. 12 in a black jail.

Pastor Huang Yizi was accused of “stealing, spying on, buying or illegally providing state secrets for institutions and people outside the country.” During his detention, authorities did not allow him to meet with lawyers or speak with his family.

China Aid will continue to update this story as more information becomes available.


China Aid Contacts
Rachel Ritchie, English Media Director
Cell: (432) 553-1080 | Office: 1+ (888) 889-7757 | Other: (432) 689-6985
Email: r.ritchie@chinaaid.org
Website: www.chinaaid.org
China Aid
By Brynne Lawrence

Updated 2:28 p.m. CDT on Feb. 9, 2016

(Wenzhou, Zhejiang—Feb. 5, 2016) Groups totaling more than 100 government officials broke into two churches in China’s coastal Zhejiang province and demolished their crosses on the early morning of Jan. 28.

According to reports from local Christians, authorities secretly entered Shangye Village Church in Rui’an, Wenzhou and Funan Church in Jiaxing and simultaneously demolished their church crosses. Police controlled Christians who congregated outside to protest.

From Jan. 25–27, authorities also destroyed six more church crosses, triggering speculation
concerning a new wave of persecution.

“A few clergymen are now being held,” a local Christian said. “There has been no information from them. Even their families can’t contact them. The [number of] demolished crosses has now reached 1,800.”

A demolished church cross. (Photo:
China Aid)
In Jan. 2014, Zhejiang’s government launched the “Three Rectifications and One Demolition” campaign with the objective of either correcting or demolishing “illegal structures.” It quickly became clear, however, that the initiative’s true focus was churches, crosses and other religious sites.

According to local Christians, officials have removed 18 crosses since the beginning of this year.

Church attendees noted that current attempts to destroy church crosses deviate slightly in method from previous ones. In the past, government bureaus notified church members of plans to demolish a cross. Lately, the officials prefer to secretly dismantle crosses without delivering any prior notification.

Additionally, the Three-Self Patriotic Movement (TSPM) is pressuring house church attendees to destroy their own church’s cross. According to a TSPM staff member, the organization dispatched him to a rural church in order to personally encourage church attendees to carry out destruction efforts.

A list of churches demolished since Jan. 1 can be read in full below.

China Aid reports cases such as this one to expose violations of religious freedom and promote freedom of religion and rule of law in China.



A list of churches demolished in Zhejiang since Jan. 1

1. On Jan. 7, Nanhu Church’s cross was destroyed in Wenzhou, Zhejiang.
2. On Jan. 7, Wutian Dongzhuang Church’s cross was demolished in Lucheng District, Wenzhou.
3. On Jan. 11, Luofu Church’s re-erected cross was demolished in Yongjia County, Wenzhou.
4. On Jan. 14, Dongmen Church’s cross was demolished in Pingyang County, Wenzhou.
5. On Jan. 18, the cross on Wuniu Church’s Shanhou Chapel was demolished in Yongjia County, Wenzhou.
6. On Jan. 25, Songqiao Church’s cross was demolished in Pingyang County, Wenzhou.
7. On Jan. 25, Xiuyang Church’s cross was demolished in Pingyang County, Wenzhou.
8. On Jan. 26, Qingkeng Church’s cross was demolished in Pingyang County, Wenzhou.
9. On Jan. 27, Waipu Church’s cross was demolished in Pingyang County, Wenzhou.
10. On Jan. 27, the cross at Baziqiao Christian Church’s meeting place was demolished in Cangnan County, Wenzhou.
11. On Jan. 27, two church crosses were demolished in Cangnan County, Wenzhou. It has been reported that there were other church crosses demolished within the county, but specific data needs to be verified.
12. On Jan. 28, several crosses were demolished in Yongjia County, Wenzhou. Specific data is not available.
13. On Jan. 28, Funan Church’s cross was demolished in Jiaxing, Zhejiang.
14. On Jan. 28, Shangye Church’s cross was demolished in Rui’an, Wenzhou.
15. On Jan. 29, Waipu Church’s re-erected cross was demolished again in Pingyang County, Wenzhou.
16. On Jan. 29, Zhenguangtou Church’s cross was demolished in Pingyang County, Wenzhou.
17. On Jan. 29, Xiaqiao Church’s cross was demolished in Pingyang County, Wenzhou.

18. On Jan. 29, Dongan Aodi Church’s cross was demolished in Yongjia County, Wenzhou.


China Aid Contacts
Rachel Ritchie, English Media Director
Cell: (432) 553-1080 | Office: 1+ (888) 889-7757 | Other: (432) 689-6985
Email: r.ritchie@chinaaid.org
Website: www.chinaaid.org
Radio Free Asia
2016-02-05

■ Authorities in the Chinese capital have effectively denied permission to veteran journalist Gao Yu to go to Germany for medical treatment, even though she is being allowed to serve her sentence outside of jail.

Gao, whose seven-year jail term for "leaking state secrets overseas" was cut on appeal to five years by the Beijing High People's Courtlast November, has suffered heart attacks in detention.

She also suffers from high blood pressure, and has signs of a growth on a lymph node that could be malignant, her lawyers said in her applications for medical parole before her release.

Since leaving detention, Gao has been granted a visa to travel to Germany, but the Chinese authorities have denied her permission to leave the country, her lawyer Shang Baojun told RFA.

Government fails to keep promise

He said the government has also left her with no income.

Demonstrators hold placards showing portraits of Chinese
journalist Gao Yu during a protest in support of her outside the
China liaison office in Hong Kong, April 17, 2015.
AFP
"Since Gao Yu was released for medical reasons a few months ago, the authorities have always said that they would pay her medical bills and retirement pension," Shang said. "But they haven't made good on these promises so far."

He said Gao lacks any basic retirement income or medical insurance, and her health is in "a worrying state."

"The German government is very concerned about this, and the German chancellor and the German ambassador to China went to a lot of trouble to get this visa for her to go to Germany for treatment," Shang said.

"Except that now, the Chinese government won't allow it."

Shang said Gao had applied several times for an exit permit from her local police station, but had received no reply from them.

"We don't even know who is in charge of this decision," he said. "We call on the relevant authorities to approve Gao's trip to Germany to seek medical treatment."

According to Germany-based journalist Su Yutong, Gao has also been turned away from every hospital in China where she has sought treatment since her release from detention.

Gao was initially sentenced to a seven-year jail term by the Beijing No. 3 Intermediate People's Court in April 2015 for "leaking state secrets overseas,” but denied breaking Chinese law, saying that a televised "confession" on which the prosecution based its case was obtained under duress.

Health deteriorates

Gao's lawyers and relatives repeatedly warned of her deteriorating health during a prolonged stay in a police-run Beijing jail.

Gao had been held in the jail since her initial detention in April 2014, as she planned to mark the 26th anniversary of 1989 student-led pro-democracy movement on Tiananmen Square, that culminated in a military crackdown by the People's Liberation Army (PLA) on the night of June 3-4, 1989.

During her November 2014 trial, Gao Yu was accused of leaking party policy Document No. 9 to a Hong Kong-based media outlet.

Document No. 9 lists "seven taboos" to be avoided in public debate, online and in China's schools and universities that include democracy, freedom of the press, judicial independence and criticism of the party's historical record.

Her defense team argued that the document was already available online, and that the media organization in question could easily have downloaded it elsewhere.

Gao's sentencing sparked an outcry among rights groups and fellow activists, who said there was no evidence that she broke Chinese law.

Reported by Gao Shan for RFA's Mandarin Service, and by Wen Yuqing for the Cantonese Service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.


China Aid Contacts
Rachel Ritchie, English Media Director
Cell: (432) 553-1080 | Office: 1+ (888) 889-7757 | Other: (432) 689-6985
Email: r.ritchie@chinaaid.org
Website: www.chinaaid.org
Reuters
By Megha Rajagapolan
Sun Jan 31, 2016 5:10 am EST

■ One of China's leading Christian pastors Gu Yuese is being probed for suspicion of embezzling funds, state-backed church authorities in Zhejiang province said, a move that comes after the pastor opposed a campaign to remove crosses from atop churches.

"We feel deeply shocked and filled with regret," the government-backed Hangzhou Christian Council said in a statement on its website regarding Gu's investigation, adding that the investigation was due to his individual conduct.

The Council gave no further details of the charges or evidence against Gu in its post late on Friday night.

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
It said it had been notified by a "relevant department", but did not say who was conducting the investigation. Police in Hangzhou did not immediately respond to calls for comment.

Gu could not be reached for comment.

Zhejiang, on China's eastern coast, is known for its large Christian population. Previous campaigns by authorities there to dismantle crosses on top of churches have incensed the local religious population.

Gu's Chongyi church, which has a congregation of 10,000 followers, is known internationally as the largest Protestant church in the Chinese-speaking world.

Gu, who had frequently met with visiting foreign guests and appeared at government-organised ceremonies, previously spoke out against the campaign to tear down crosses, according to a few of his followers.

Two Gu supporters in Zhejiang told Reuters by phone on Friday that they had not been able to get in touch with him, and he had recently sent a message to followers that was critical of the cross removal campaign. They declined to be identified because of the sensitivity of the matter.

It was unclear whether Gu's investigation was linked to the note.

"Ironically, he was kind of elevated as almost a poster boy in the government established system for showcasing religious freedom in China," said Bob Fu, director of the ChinaAid Association, a Texas-based Christian nonprofit that advocates for freedom of religion in China.

Authorities in the region have said crosses are removed because they violate regulations against illegal structures. Rights groups say demolishing crosses restricts Christianity and religious freedoms.

The ruling Communist Party says it protects freedom of religion, but keeps a tight rein on religious activities and allows only officially recognised religious institutions to operate.

Protests broke out in 2014 in the heavily Christian city of Wenzhou, also in Zhejiang, over the government's cross demolition campaign.

(Reporting by Megha Rajagopalan; Editing by Ryan Woo)


China Aid Contacts
Rachel Ritchie, English Media Director
Cell: (432) 553-1080 | Office: 1+ (888) 889-7757 | Other: (432) 689-6985
Email: r.ritchie@chinaaid.org
Website: www.chinaaid.org
Christian Today
By Mark Woods 
01 February 2016

■ The pastor of China's largest Protestant church, who was removed from his position without warning by the authorities, has been accused of embezzling church funds and detained in a so-called 'black jail'.

Pastor Gu Yuese, senior minister of the 10,000-member Chongyi Church, was ejected from office last week by the official Three-Self Patriotic Movement (TSPM) and the China Christian Council.

According to the religious liberty group China Aid, authorities have accused him of embezzling 10 million yuan (£1 million).

China Aid told Christian Today that Gu's entire leadership team at Chongyi Church had been ordered to leave and assigned to different congregations. A pastor approved by the state-backed China Christian Council has taken control of the church and preached yesterday. All churches have been ordered to install a Chinese flag on their buildings.

The local chapters of the China Christian Council and TSPM posted similarly-worded statements on their websites on Friday about Gu's arrest.

They claimed to have learned in "recent days" that Mr Gu was "being investigated because of suspicions of economic issues, including embezzling money", adding that the matter had "to do with one individual's behaviour".

One of the church cross demolitions in Zhejiang, against
which Gu Yuese protested. China Aid
Gu had publicly opposed the government campaign to tear down the crosses that identify church buildings, leading to speculation that his removal was connected to his outspoken activism.

China Aid Founder and President Bob Fu told Christian Today Gu's arrest and the accusations against him were "political revenge" for his public opposition to the removal of crosses. He said Gu's fate was "sealed" when he spoke out.

"Rev Gu's conscientious act, broadly welcomed by the Chinese and international Christian community, was certainly perceived as 'crossing the red line' by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) leadership," he added.

Fu said that Gu's treatment was designed to intimidate other Christian leaders within the official TSPM churches into keeping silent about the removal of crosses.

"In the past two weeks 18 crosses were removed and destroyed. Thirteen of them happened last week alone," he said. "Overall at least 1,800 crosses were demolished since the campaign started.

"I have no doubt President Xi is behind this. Rev Gu will eventually [be] indicted and, depending on how his public confession will go, he will be treated like a 'criminal'."

Gu would be "thoroughly isolated and interrogated" until he was publicly indicted, Fu said.

According to China Aid, Gu has been placed under "residential surveillance in a designated location", code for a detention centre operating outside the legal system, or 'black jail'. Family members believe that the pastor's wife, whom they have been unable to contact, was also taken into police custody.

Fu said: "His arrest marks a major escalation in the crackdown against those who oppose the forced demolition of crosses. He will be the highest-ranking national Church leader arrested since the Cultural Revolution."

A group of about 40 Christians in Hong Kong have alleged in an open letter to the media that Gu's arrest was connected to his opposition to government efforts to contain churches in the province, reports the BBC.

After Gu's dismissal he and his wife Zhou Lian Mei, who teaches Bible classes at the church, issued a statement thanking the congregation for its support and affirming their commitment to the church.

They said: "Regardless of how the situation will be after this, we will inevitably continue serving at Chongyi Church if there is no other guidance from the Lord himself! Of course, the manner [of service] may change, but our love of the Lord and his flock will never change, because we are the Lord's servants! Thank God!"

The statement continued: "Increasingly, we feel God's good intentions in this storm. It will refine every impurity in our ministry team to the greatest extent and compel us to love the Lord and people more purely."


China Aid Contacts
Rachel Ritchie, English Media Director
Cell: (432) 553-1080 | Office: 1+ (888) 889-7757 | Other: (432) 689-6985
Email: r.ritchie@chinaaid.org
Website: www.chinaaid.org
The Wall Street Journal
By Jillian Kay Melchior
Feb. 4, 2016 7:23 p.m. ET

■ Xi Jinping attacks the ‘patriotic’ church that has long co-existed with the government.

Nearly seven years after Warren Bird visited the biggest Protestant church in China, he’s still deeply moved as he recalls its pastor, “Joseph” Gu Yuese, preaching that morning from Psalms.

“His sermon was on how God understands our cares,” says Mr. Bird, an American researcher and expert on global megachurches. “He got very emotional—not in the sense of high emotion carried by his voice tone, but emotional in the sense of affirming, from the Psalms, that God cares about our hearts, and God feels our pain, and God relates to us. It was like, wow.”

Mr. Gu’s sermon in Chongyi Church on that Sunday morning in August 2009 now feels eerie—and prescient. Psalms is a book about finding comfort from God amid hardship and persecution, and this week Mr. Gu disappeared into the hands of the Chinese government. He is reportedly imprisoned in a secretive “black jail,” notorious for deplorable conditions and even torture. Not since the Cultural Revolution has the Chinese government gone after such a high-ranking church leader.

Pastor ‘Joseph’ Gu Yuese in an undated photo.
Photo: China Christian Daily
Mr. Gu comes from Zhejiang Province, a region known for both its flourishing Christianity and entrepreneurial spirit. Believers there have long enjoyed relatively good relations with the authorities.

When I visited Zhejiang in 2012, Christians repeatedly told me how they sought to obey both the government and God. Their extensive charity—caring for the elderly, disabled and orphans; donating blood during disasters; feeding the poor—won them good will from authorities. They have picked their battles wisely and compromised often, submitting to the government’s demands whenever they feel it is morally permissible.

In 2001, for instance, provincial officials tried to forbid religious education for children. Churches pushed back, writing a joint appeal. They cited Chinese law, emphasizing their love of country. Though Christians refused to stop raising their children in the faith, they agreed to postpone some classes, offering a way for the government to back down and save face. For the most part, this strategy worked. Sunday schools remain common in the province.

Zhejiang’s combination of faith and patriotism has underpinned Mr. Gu’s pastoral career. Until January, he held leadership roles on two of the bureaucratic organizations overseeing state-sanctioned Christianity in China, the Three-Self Patriotic Movement and the China Christian Council. And with the government’s approval, his Chongyi Church has thrived, drawing as many as 10,000 attendees each Sunday.

But since President Xi Jinping assumed office in 2013, religious persecution has intensified. In 2014 the central government named religion one of four “severe challenges” to national security in an official report. Weeks later, a memo leaked, calling for provincial authorities to “see clearly the political issues behind the cross[es]” that dominate the architectural landscape in Zhejiang Province, urging them to limit the spread of Christianity.

Since then, the government has forcibly demolished more than 1,800 crosses across Zhejiang. In one particularly gruesome incident, police beat believers with electric batons after they gathered to protest the removal of a cross at Wenzhou Salvation Church. One man suffered a cracked skull. More than 95% of the torn-down crosses belonged to state-sanctioned churches, which had painstakingly registered with the government in an attempt to operate in accordance with official policy.

“There was no compromise, no discussion—it’s an order, and you have to do it,” observes Fenggang Yang, director of the Center on Religion and Chinese Society at Purdue University. “For Christians in Zhejiang, this is a symbolic fight. The Christians treat the cross as very meaningful to their faith, to their Christian life. They don’t see the legal basis for the crosses’ removal.”

Mr. Yang noted that they tried to defend the crosses by legal means, even hiring lawyers. Unfortunately, he says, the legal processes have been stopped. The lawyers, as well as the church leaders who worked closely with them, “have been arrested, because there’s no room for negotiation through the legal procedure. I think that it’s not that Christians are unwilling to compromise. It’s simply that the government side has provided no room for any negotiation.”

Mr. Gu elected not to stay silent. He issued a public statement with the red stamp of the China Christian Council, where he was provincial chairman, calling the crackdown “barbaric.” On Jan. 18 Mr. Gu lost his job. Less than 10 days later, authorities seized Mr. Gu and his wife at their home, later freeing her.

Mr. Gu was considered the poster boy for how Chinese Christians could practice their faith while obeying their government. That raises a daunting question for China’s Christians: If Mr. Gu can’t stay on the good side of the authorities, who can?

Ms. Melchior, a writer for National Review and the Steamboat Institute, traveled extensively in China in 2012, reporting on Christianity as a Robert Novak Fellow.


China Aid Contacts
Rachel Ritchie, English Media Director
Cell: (432) 553-1080 | Office: 1+ (888) 889-7757 | Other: (432) 689-6985
Email: r.ritchie@chinaaid.org
Website: www.chinaaid.org
Gu Yuese, pictured above, is currently
 in a “black jail.” (Photo: China Aid)
China Aid
By Brynne Lawrence

(Wenzhou, Zhejiang—Feb. 4, 2016) Government personnel in China’s coastal Zhejiang criminally detained a high-ranking official of a state-run Christian organization and his wife on Jan. 29 after he publicly opposed the cross removal campaign sweeping through the province.

Li Guanzhong, who serves as the chairman of the China Christian Council (CCC) in Pujiang County and the senior pastor of Puyang Christian Church, and his wife, Zhang Shuzhen, received criminal detention sentences on charges of accepting bribes and embezzlement.

In July 2014, Li resisted the government’s attempt to pressure him into destroying his own church’s cross and publicly condemned the cross demolitions.

After taking the same stance, Pastor Gu Yuese, the chairman of the provincial CCC, received a notice on Jan. 18 stating that the Secretary-General of the Three-Self Patriotic Movement would replace him as senior pastor of China’s largest official church.

On Jan. 27, authorities incarcerated Gu and his wife, Zhou Lianmei, who was later released. China Aid learned that Gu had been charged with “embezzlement of funds” and sentenced to “residential surveillance in an undisclosed location,” also known as a “black jail.”

Zhejiang’s provincial government began demolishing church buildings and crosses in 2014 in a campaign titled “Three Rectifications and One Demolition.” Since then, authorities have destroyed an estimated 1,800 crosses and detained hundreds of Christian protesters and their lawyers.

Recently, Li also resisted the government’s order that all official churches fly a Chinese flag.

“The persecution of government-approved church leaders is alarming,” said Bob Fu, president of China Aid. “It marks an escalation in the persecution of those opposing the cross demolition campaign. The harassment and detention of Christians and human rights defenders who have bravely spoken out against injustice must stop immediately.”

China Aid exposes religious freedom abuses, such as those experienced by Li Guanzhong and Gu Yuese, in order to promote religious freedom and rule of law in China.


China Aid Contacts
Rachel Ritchie, English Media Director
Cell: (432) 553-1080 | Office: 1+ (888) 889-7757 | Other: (432) 689-6985
Email: r.ritchie@chinaaid.org
Website: www.chinaaid.org
The Guardian
Reuters
Monday 1 February 2016 22.20 EST
Last modified on Monday 1 February 2016 22.22 EST

■ State department spokesman John Kirby says the US is ‘deeply concerned’ over the fate of the men, who are assumed to be in detention on the mainland

The United States has called on China to clarify the status of five missing Hong Kong booksellers, saying the case has raised serious questions about China’s commitment to Hong Kong’s autonomy under the one country, two systems framework.
A protestor at a rally condemning the suspected abduction
of the five booksellers in Hong Kong.
Photograph: Jerome Favre/EPA
The booksellers – including Lee Bo, 65, a dual British and Chinese national and owner of a publisher and bookstore specialising in books critical of China’s Communist party leaders – are believed by many to have been abducted by mainland agents.

US state department spokesman John Kirby told a regular news briefing that Washington was “deeply concerned.”

“These cases ... raise serious questions about China’s commitment to Hong Kong’s autonomy under the one country, two systems framework, as well as its respect for the protection of universal human rights and fundamental freedoms,” he said.

“We urge China to clarify the current status of all five individuals and the circumstances surrounding their disappearances and to allow them to return to their homes.”

The British government is still waiting for responses to its diplomatic requests for information and access to Lee, who disappeared from Hong Kong on 30 December.

Lee’s wife visited him in a mainland guesthouse on 23 January and issued a statement saying he was healthy and in good spirits, and that he was a witness in an investigation.

Four other booksellers are believed to be still in mainland detention, including Swedish national Gui Min-hai, who disappeared from the Thai resort town of Pattaya last October.

The disappearance of the five Hong Kong booksellers,
including UK passport holder Lee Bo, has unsettled many
in Hong Kong.
Photograph: Ringo Chiu/Zuma Press/Corbis
Gui surfaced on Chinese state television this month stating he had voluntarily turned himself into Chinese authorities last month over a fatal drunken driving case from more than a decade ago.

The disappearances have prompted fears that mainland Chinese authorities may be using shadowy tactics that erode the one country, two systems formula under which Hong Kong has been governed since its return to China from British rule in 1997.

Britain handed Hong Kong back to China under agreements that its broad freedoms, way of life and vaunted legal system would remain unchanged for 50 years.

Chinese authorities have not responded to multiple requests for comment from Reuters, nor have they made any substantial statements explaining Beijing’s role in the disappearances or the fate of the men.


China Aid Contacts
Rachel Ritchie, English Media Director
Cell: (432) 553-1080 | Office: 1+ (888) 889-7757 | Other: (432) 689-6985
Email: r.ritchie@chinaaid.org
Website: www.chinaaid.org
The Guardian
Reuters
Thursday 4 February 2016 13.09 EST
Last modified on Thursday 4 February 2016 13.52 EST

■ Chinese police have confirmed for the first time that three of five Hong Kong booksellers who went missing were being investigated for “illegal activities” in China, according to a letter sent to Hong Kong police on Thursday.

The disappearances have prompted fears that mainland Chinese authorities may be using shadowy tactics that erode the “one country, two systems” formula under which Hong Kong has been governed since its return to China from British rule in 1997.

The three men – Lui Por, Cheung Chi-ping and Lam Wing-kee, who were linked to the Causeway Bay Books shop – had had “criminal compulsory measures” imposed on them, Chinese police in the southern province of Guangdong told Hong Kong police.

This was the first indication by mainland Chinese authorities as to the fate of the three since they were reported missing last November. No other details of their location or condition were given.

Hong Kong police referred to the letter from the Chinese police in a statement, but did not make it public in full.

Two other Hong Kong booksellers who also disappeared, Gui Minhai and Lee Bo, are believed to have been abducted or coerced from Thailand and Hong Kong respectively, and taken to China, according to foreign diplomats.
The entrance (centre, beneath yellow sign) to the Causeway
Bay Books shop in Hong Kong.
Photography: Anthony Wallace/AFP/Getty Images

Hong Kong police said China had also given them a handwritten letter from Lee, stating that he was in China. In the letter Lee declined a request by Hong Kong police to meet him. He gave no further details.

However, Hong Kong police said they still wanted to meet Lee as soon as possible and were pressing Beijing for more information on the other three.

No specifics were given on the alleged crimes of Lui, Cheung and Lam, other than that they were suspected of involvement in a case related to Gui, a Swedish passport holder, who made a tearful confession on Chinese television last month to a fatal hit-and-run incident over a decade ago.

Gui and Lee – a dual British and Chinese national – had been owners of the same publisher and bookstore that specialised in books critical of China’s Communist party leaders.

The British government is still waiting for responses to its diplomatic requests for information and access to Lee. The EU and the US have also expressed concern about the disappearances.

So far, Chinese authorities have made no substantial statements explaining Beijing’s role in the disappearances or how the men ended up in China. China’s foreign ministry has said Hong Kong is China’s domestic affair and “no foreign country has the right to interfere”.

Britain returned Hong Kong to China under agreements that its broad freedoms, way of life and legal system would remain unchanged for 50 years.


China Aid Contacts
Rachel Ritchie, English Media Director
Cell: (432) 553-1080 | Office: 1+ (888) 889-7757 | Other: (432) 689-6985
Email: r.ritchie@chinaaid.org
Website: www.chinaaid.org
The Wall Street Journal
By Sarah Cook
Feb. 3, 2016 12:48 p.m. ET

■ The families of China’s detained rights activists have little cause for celebration.

During next week’s Lunar New Year, more than one billion Chinese will gather with relatives to celebrate the biggest holiday of the Chinese calendar. But the families of some of China’s leading human-rights defenders won’t be so lucky. In recent weeks, authorities announced a series of especially harsh charges and sentences against more than a dozen lawyers and activists.

Several of these rights lawyers and activists had been detained in July 2015 as part of President Xi Jinping’s crackdown not only against calls for political change but also against legal and Internet activism pursuing fair law enforcement. They had been awaiting their possible, though improbable, release after Jan. 9, the end of their six-month “residential surveillance in a police-designated location”—a form of detention without formal charges. But just days before the deadline, six lawyers, paralegals and administrative assistants were charged with “subversion,” a severe political crime that carries a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.

Four others were charged with “inciting subversion,” a lesser offense that can draw a five-year sentence and is routinely used to punish acts such as criticizing the government online. The families of at least 17 detainees have received no news and have been left to imagine what the authorities have in store.

Supporters and foreign observers expressed shock at the unusually severe charges and prospect of long prison sentences. They also lamented the implications on China’s human rights and rule of law. “That is too big a charge to put on such a little girl,” said the husband of 24-year-old paralegal Zhao Wei. He hasn’t seen his wife since she was detained last summer.
Members from Civic Party, holding portraits of (L-R) Wang
Qingying, Yuan Chaoyang and Tang Jingling, protest outside
China's Liaison Office in Hong Kong, on Jan. 29.
Photo: Bobby Yip/Reuters

Shortly after, on Jan. 15, a Han Chinese activist from Xinjiang was sentenced to 19 years in prison. Zhang Haitao was charged with “inciting subversion of state power” and “illegally supplying intelligence abroad.” In addition to criticizing government policies in online articles, he had given interviews to U.S.-based radio stations, relaying observations of events in a restive region that is mostly off-limits to foreign journalists. Mr. Zhang’s wife will now be raising their one-month-old son without his father.

The latest blow came on Jan. 29. A Guangzhou court released the verdict for three men—a lawyer, a writer and a teacher—who had been involved in human rights and pro-democracy activities over the past decade. Tang Jingling, Yuan Chaoyang and Wang Qingying were sentenced to between two-and-a-half to five years in prison after already spending 20 months in custody.

Last month’s official decisions highlight two changes in the Party’s authoritarian tactics. The regime is reviving its use of charges such as “subversion” after having shifted to less overtly political charges in the first years of Mr. Xi’s leadership. Authorities are also extensively using Article 73 of the Criminal Procedure Law to hold activists in isolated “residential surveillance” for six months.

When the provision was adopted in 2012 to curb national-security threats and corruption, rights groups expressed fears that the new rule gave legal credence to the extralegal practice of secretly detaining activists for months without charge. The trends hint at how newer legal restrictions enacted in 2015 to “protect national security” could be used to punish peaceful dissent.

Yet many Chinese activists and their families remain committed to promoting freedom and remain optimistic about China’s future. “Dear Father and Mother … no matter how horrible the environment is, you must hang on and live,” wrote Wang Quanzhang, one of the lawyers charged with subversion, in a letter he prepared in case he was detained. “Wait for the day when the clouds will disperse and the sun will come out.”

Ms. Cook is a senior research analyst for East Asia at Freedom House and director of its China Media Bulletin.

China Aid Contacts
Rachel Ritchie, English Media Director
Cell: (432) 553-1080 | Office: 1+ (888) 889-7757 | Other: (432) 689-6985
Email: r.ritchie@chinaaid.org
Website: www.chinaaid.org
Radio Free Asia
2016-02-02

■ Authorities in the southeastern Chinese province of Fujian have transferred the subversion case of a prominent free speech activist known as "the Butcher" to the northern port city of Tianjin, his lawyer said on Tuesday.

Wu Gan, 42, was initially detained last year and handed a 10-day administrative sentence, before being placed under criminal detention on suspicion of "picking quarrels and stirring up trouble," "libel," and "incitement to subvert state power."

According to his lawyer Wu Kuiming, who is still trying to find out where Wu is being held, the "libel" charge was later dropped and his case transferred to Tianjin.

Wu Kuiming said it is likely that the authorities are now treating him as part of the nationwide crackdown begun on lawyers and rights activists on July 9, 2015 with a raid on the Beijing Fengrui law firm.

"His formal arrest notification number is 24, while [Beijing rights activist] Hu Shigen's is 21, [Fengrui] boss Zhou Shifeng's is 22, while [rights lawyer] Li Heping's is 23," Wu Kuiming said.

While police in Wu's home province of Fujian recommended state prosecutors formally arrest him, and critical articles about him have appeared in China's tightly-controlled state media, his case may have been transferred in a bid to put further pressure on him, he said.

Not giving in

"He hasn't given in, and he has refused to confess to these crimes," Wu Kuiming said. "If he had cooperated, they would definitely have put him on [state broadcaster] CCTV."

"From the authorities' point of view, the best possible outcome is that they agree to go on CCTV [for a televised confession],” he explained. “The fact that they haven't done this [to Wu] means they are having trouble getting a confession out of him.”
Wu Gan stages protest outside Jiangxi High Court, May 19,
2015. Photo courtesy of Boxun

Wu's initial detention came as he staged a performance protest he titled "selling my body to raise funds" in Nanchang city, Jiangxi province.

He was trying to help finance a legal defense for four men who rights campaigners say were wrongly jailed by a court in Jiangxi's Leping city in 2000 for robbery, rape, and dismembering a corpse.

A May 28 article in the state-run news agency Xinhua attacked Wu Gan for his criticism of the police killing of a man at the Qing'an railway station in the northeastern province of Heilongjiang earlier the same month.

Rights activists say Wu likely first drew the ire of the authorities when he posted online his doubts about the credibility of the government’s investigation of the shooting.

Fighter for social justice

Zhejiang rights lawyer Yan Huafeng said Wu also launched his own investigation into what he believed was a gross miscarriage of justice in the Leping case, collecting video and audio testimony from witnesses and posting them online.

"From what we know of him, we see the Butcher as man who is passionate about social justice, who loves a good fight against injustice," Yan said.

"He got himself quite deeply involved in the Qing'an [police shooting] and that's probably the point at which he fell afoul of someone in authority," he said.

"I think that his actions on the whole were beneficial to society, or aimed at resolving social conflicts."

Reported by Xin Lin for RFA's Mandarin Service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.


China Aid Contacts
Rachel Ritchie, English Media Director
Cell: (432) 553-1080 | Office: 1+ (888) 889-7757 | Other: (432) 689-6985
Email: r.ritchie@chinaaid.org
Website: www.chinaaid.org
Breitbart

China's Largest Megachurch Asks Believers to Pray for Pastor Jailed for Christian Faith


image: http://graphic.christianpost.com/images/new_article/ic_print.gif
Sign Up for Free eNewsletter ››

BY STOYAN ZAIMOV , CHRISTIAN POST REPORTER
February 2, 2016|1:07 pm
image: http://images.christianpost.com/full/76549/worshippers-pray-during-a-mass-at-the-liuhe-catholic-church-in-liuhe-village-on-the-outskirts-of-qingxu-county-northern-china-in-this-undated-photo.jpg
image: http://images.christianpost.com/full/76549/worshippers-pray-during-a-mass-at-the-liuhe-catholic-church-in-liuhe-village-on-the-outskirts-of-qingxu-county-northern-china-in-this-undated-photo.jpg
Worshippers pray during a mass at the Liuhe Catholic Church in Liuhe village on the outskirts of Qingxu county, northern China, in this undated photo.(PHOTO: REUTERS)
Worshippers pray during a mass at the Liuhe Catholic Church in Liuhe village on the outskirts of Qingxu county, northern China, in this undated photo.
Hangzhou's Chongyi Church, the largest government-sanctioned church in China, has asked Christians to pray for the Rev. Gu Yuese to keep his faith in jail as he faces government persecution for protesting against the removal of church crosses.
China Christian Daily translated Chongyi's press release over the weekend that included a prayer list.


The press release "asks its congregation particularly to pray for pastor Gu Yuese: beg the Lord to help Rev. Gu keeping his faith in adversity, standing firmly in the trials of the cross."
Gu was arrested in January for protesting against the ongoing forced removal of church crosses in China. Late last week, China Aid reported that the pastor has been placed under "residential surveillance in a designated location," otherwise known as a black jail.
Communist Party officials have ordered the removal of hundreds of church crosses in a massive crackdown throughout several provinces in the country, and with Gu's arrest they have shown that not even the most prominent church leaders in China will be allowed to stand in the way of their initiative.
The government is claiming that the crosses are being removed over building code violations, but several watchdog groups, including China Aid and International Christian Concern, have said that the crackdown has more to do with the government's unease with the growing Christian population.
"His arrest marks a major escalation in the crackdown against those who oppose the forced demolition of crosses," China Aid Founder and President Bob Fu said about the pastor's arrest. "He will be the highest-ranking national church leader arrested since the Cultural Revolution."
Fu later told the Christian Science Monitor that there can be no mistaking the message the Chinese government is sending out.
"This is really quite an escalation," the China Aid founder said. "It sends a signal to silence any potential future dissenting voices from within the Church. It tells everyone to shut up."
Carsten Vala, an authority on Christianity in China at Loyola University Maryland, told readers that government authorities have also arrested a number of activists in recent months.
"What is most worrying is that the crackdown on lawyers and civil society activists is now even reaching into the circles of officially registered religious and social organizations," Vala said.
"Not just unregistered groups. After all, Pastor Gu is a leader of the official churches of the Chinese Communist Party-backed Three Self Patriotic Movement association."
Back in July, Chinese Catholics and Protestants united in a campaign to carry crosses everywhere with them in protest against the crackdown.
Chinese Christians also posted pictures of themselves on social media with crosses erected at their homes, while priests called on believers in the nation to show the government that Christians stand together in protecting the holy symbol of the cross.

Read more at http://www.christianpost.com/news/china-megachurch-pray-pastor-yuese-jailed-christian-faith-defending-church-crosses-156567/#zul7kX4KizCikjJr.99

China's Largest Megachurch Asks Believers to Pray for Pastor Jailed for Christian Faith


image: http://graphic.christianpost.com/images/new_article/ic_print.gif
Sign Up for Free eNewsletter ››

BY STOYAN ZAIMOV , CHRISTIAN POST REPORTER
February 2, 2016|1:07 pm
image: http://images.christianpost.com/full/76549/worshippers-pray-during-a-mass-at-the-liuhe-catholic-church-in-liuhe-village-on-the-outskirts-of-qingxu-county-northern-china-in-this-undated-photo.jpg
image: http://images.christianpost.com/full/76549/worshippers-pray-during-a-mass-at-the-liuhe-catholic-church-in-liuhe-village-on-the-outskirts-of-qingxu-county-northern-china-in-this-undated-photo.jpg
Worshippers pray during a mass at the Liuhe Catholic Church in Liuhe village on the outskirts of Qingxu county, northern China, in this undated photo.(PHOTO: REUTERS)
Worshippers pray during a mass at the Liuhe Catholic Church in Liuhe village on the outskirts of Qingxu county, northern China, in this undated photo.
Hangzhou's Chongyi Church, the largest government-sanctioned church in China, has asked Christians to pray for the Rev. Gu Yuese to keep his faith in jail as he faces government persecution for protesting against the removal of church crosses.
China Christian Daily translated Chongyi's press release over the weekend that included a prayer list.


The press release "asks its congregation particularly to pray for pastor Gu Yuese: beg the Lord to help Rev. Gu keeping his faith in adversity, standing firmly in the trials of the cross."
Gu was arrested in January for protesting against the ongoing forced removal of church crosses in China. Late last week, China Aid reported that the pastor has been placed under "residential surveillance in a designated location," otherwise known as a black jail.
Communist Party officials have ordered the removal of hundreds of church crosses in a massive crackdown throughout several provinces in the country, and with Gu's arrest they have shown that not even the most prominent church leaders in China will be allowed to stand in the way of their initiative.
The government is claiming that the crosses are being removed over building code violations, but several watchdog groups, including China Aid and International Christian Concern, have said that the crackdown has more to do with the government's unease with the growing Christian population.
"His arrest marks a major escalation in the crackdown against those who oppose the forced demolition of crosses," China Aid Founder and President Bob Fu said about the pastor's arrest. "He will be the highest-ranking national church leader arrested since the Cultural Revolution."
Fu later told the Christian Science Monitor that there can be no mistaking the message the Chinese government is sending out.
"This is really quite an escalation," the China Aid founder said. "It sends a signal to silence any potential future dissenting voices from within the Church. It tells everyone to shut up."
Carsten Vala, an authority on Christianity in China at Loyola University Maryland, told readers that government authorities have also arrested a number of activists in recent months.
"What is most worrying is that the crackdown on lawyers and civil society activists is now even reaching into the circles of officially registered religious and social organizations," Vala said.
"Not just unregistered groups. After all, Pastor Gu is a leader of the official churches of the Chinese Communist Party-backed Three Self Patriotic Movement association."
Back in July, Chinese Catholics and Protestants united in a campaign to carry crosses everywhere with them in protest against the crackdown.
Chinese Christians also posted pictures of themselves on social media with crosses erected at their homes, while priests called on believers in the nation to show the government that Christians stand together in protecting the holy symbol of the cross.

Read more at http://www.christianpost.com/news/china-megachurch-pray-pastor-yuese-jailed-christian-faith-defending-church-crosses-156567/#zul7kX4KizCikjJr.99

China's Largest Megachurch Asks Believers to Pray for Pastor Jailed for Christian Faith


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BY STOYAN ZAIMOV , CHRISTIAN POST REPORTER
February 2, 2016|1:07 pm
image: http://images.christianpost.com/full/76549/worshippers-pray-during-a-mass-at-the-liuhe-catholic-church-in-liuhe-village-on-the-outskirts-of-qingxu-county-northern-china-in-this-undated-photo.jpg
image: http://images.christianpost.com/full/76549/worshippers-pray-during-a-mass-at-the-liuhe-catholic-church-in-liuhe-village-on-the-outskirts-of-qingxu-county-northern-china-in-this-undated-photo.jpg
Worshippers pray during a mass at the Liuhe Catholic Church in Liuhe village on the outskirts of Qingxu county, northern China, in this undated photo.(PHOTO: REUTERS)
Worshippers pray during a mass at the Liuhe Catholic Church in Liuhe village on the outskirts of Qingxu county, northern China, in this undated photo.
Hangzhou's Chongyi Church, the largest government-sanctioned church in China, has asked Christians to pray for the Rev. Gu Yuese to keep his faith in jail as he faces government persecution for protesting against the removal of church crosses.
China Christian Daily translated Chongyi's press release over the weekend that included a prayer list.


The press release "asks its congregation particularly to pray for pastor Gu Yuese: beg the Lord to help Rev. Gu keeping his faith in adversity, standing firmly in the trials of the cross."
Gu was arrested in January for protesting against the ongoing forced removal of church crosses in China. Late last week, China Aid reported that the pastor has been placed under "residential surveillance in a designated location," otherwise known as a black jail.
Communist Party officials have ordered the removal of hundreds of church crosses in a massive crackdown throughout several provinces in the country, and with Gu's arrest they have shown that not even the most prominent church leaders in China will be allowed to stand in the way of their initiative.
The government is claiming that the crosses are being removed over building code violations, but several watchdog groups, including China Aid and International Christian Concern, have said that the crackdown has more to do with the government's unease with the growing Christian population.
"His arrest marks a major escalation in the crackdown against those who oppose the forced demolition of crosses," China Aid Founder and President Bob Fu said about the pastor's arrest. "He will be the highest-ranking national church leader arrested since the Cultural Revolution."
Fu later told the Christian Science Monitor that there can be no mistaking the message the Chinese government is sending out.
"This is really quite an escalation," the China Aid founder said. "It sends a signal to silence any potential future dissenting voices from within the Church. It tells everyone to shut up."
Carsten Vala, an authority on Christianity in China at Loyola University Maryland, told readers that government authorities have also arrested a number of activists in recent months.
"What is most worrying is that the crackdown on lawyers and civil society activists is now even reaching into the circles of officially registered religious and social organizations," Vala said.
"Not just unregistered groups. After all, Pastor Gu is a leader of the official churches of the Chinese Communist Party-backed Three Self Patriotic Movement association."
Back in July, Chinese Catholics and Protestants united in a campaign to carry crosses everywhere with them in protest against the crackdown.
Chinese Christians also posted pictures of themselves on social media with crosses erected at their homes, while priests called on believers in the nation to show the government that Christians stand together in protecting the holy symbol of the cross.

Read more at http://www.christianpost.com/news/china-megachurch-pray-pastor-yuese-jailed-christian-faith-defending-church-crosses-156567/#zul7kX4KizCikjJr.99
Breitbart

By Thomas D. Williams, PhD.
3 Feb 2016

■ Communist officials have arrested and jailed Gu Yuese, the pastor of the 10,000-member Chongyi Church, which is China’s first Christian megachurch.

Police have reportedly sent Gu to a “black jail,” a detention facility outside of the country’s established penal system.

As a member of China’s state-approved Protestant denomination, the Three-Self Patriotic Movement (TSPM), Gu was a pastor in good standing with the Communist Party until he began publicly protesting the government-sponsored campaign to remove and demolish crosses in the Zhejiang province in 2014.

Though the pastor is ostensibly being held under charges of embezzlement of funds, Gu’s detention is actually “political revenge” for Mr Gu’s “disloyalty to the Chinese Communist Party’s religious policy” according to Bob Fu, president of the US-based Christian human rights group China Aid.
AP Photo/Ng Han Guan

“In the past two weeks 18 crosses were removed and destroyed,” Fu said, adding that in total “at least 1,800 crosses of churches were demolished since the campaign started.”

Zhejiang, a province located in the south east of China, is home to many churches, particularly in the city of Wenzhou and Gu’s Chongyi Church is in the province’s capital city of Hangzhou.

Fu called the arrest an “escalation” in China’s crackdown on Christians, which has mostly targeted house churches, saying that it sends a signal “to silence any potential future dissenting voices from within the church. It tells everyone to shut up.”

Gu and his wife, Zhou Lian Mei, who has also been taken prisoner and is being held in a separate facility, prepared a statement for members of their congregation, asking for prayers and urging members to stay strong in the face of trials.

Chongyi Church is experiencing “unprecedented, chilling trials,” they wrote. “Everyone must equally rely on the Lord’s grace to confront [this hardship] and triumph over it.”

The couple also wrote that the ordeal “will refine every impurity in our ministry team to the greatest extent and compel us to love the Lord and people more purely. People in Chongyi Church will worship the only true God!”

David Ro, international deputy director for East Asia of the Lausanne Movement, has suggested that the Communist Party’s clampdown on Christian churches may reflect a campaign to “indigenize” Christianity, removing traces of its ties with the West.

“Three-Self churches with huge buildings and highly visible red crosses appear to resemble Western cathedrals, in contrast to the less visible ‘indigenous’ house church Christianity which some officials may feel is more appropriate for China,” Ro wrote.

Ro also cited internal politics as well as an “emerging leftist movement with nostalgia for Mao” among possible factors behind the persecution.

China’s crusade against the Christian cross has continued unabated since 2014 and reflects a particular animus toward the central symbol of the Christian faith.

“The authorities have attached great importance to this religious symbol,” said Zheng Leguo, a pastor from the Zhejiang province who now lives in the United States. “This means no more prominent manifestation of Christianity in the public sphere.”

Last October, the Chinese Communist party announced its intentions to intensify restrictions on Christian churches, following on a series of government measures meant to intimidate Chinese Christians, such as arbitrary detention of Christian clergy and the closing of churches..

According to a Reuters report, under President Xi Jinping, China is conducting the worst domestic crackdown on human rights in two decades and much of this is against Christians. Nearly 1,000 rights activists were detained last year alone—almost as many as in the previous two years combined.

In late August, police arrested China’s most prominent Christian lawyer, Zhang Kai, who defended and gave legal counsel to a number of Christian churches throughout the country, especially against the government’s cross-removal campaign.

Zhang and his intern Liu Peng were arrested the night before he was to meet with US ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom, David Saperstein.

China’s increasing hostility toward Christianity may also reflect an awareness and growing frustration with the religion’s continued growth in the officially atheist nation.

Though the Chinese Communist Party is the largest explicitly atheist organization in the world, with 85 million official members, it is now overshadowed by an estimated 100 million Christians in China.

Christianity is growing so fast in China that some predict that it will be the most Christian nation in the world in only another 15 years. By far, the greatest growth is coming outside the official state-sanctioned churches, which are considered subservient to the Communist Party. Numbers are increasing mostly in unofficial Protestant “house churches” and in the underground Catholic church.

Follow Thomas D. Williams on Twitter @tdwilliamsrome



China Aid Contacts
Rachel Ritchie, English Media Director
Cell: (432) 553-1080 | Office: 1+ (888) 889-7757 | Other: (432) 689-6985
Email: r.ritchie@chinaaid.org
Website: www.chinaaid.org