Monday, August 6, 2007

Jailed South China Church Founder Admits Guilt; CAA Appeals for Leadership Repentance

China Aid Association

(Midland, Texas (CAA)-August 6, 2007) Pastor Gong Shengliang, the founder of South China Church (SCC), was arrested on August 8 2001, and indicted on December 2001 with sixteen other members of the Church by the Jingmen Municipal People's Procuratorate of Hubei Province on charges of "organizing and utilizing a cult organization to undermine law enforcement, to intentionally cause bodily injury and to commit rape." In 2002, the Jingmen Municipal Intermediate Court of Hubei Province convicted him of intentional assault, rape, "organizing and utilizing a cult organization to undermine law enforcement," and intentionally destroying property. Along with two other members, Gong was sentenced to death and to deprivation of his political rights for life. After several media outlets published detailed accounts of the torture employed to extract false evidence in the first trial, the Supreme People's Court of Hubei ordered the People's Court of Appeals of Hubei to hold a retrial. In 2002, the Intermediate Court convicted Gong of intentional injury and rape, and sentenced him to life in prison. Gong is currently serving a life sentence in Hongshan Prison, Hubei. CAA also revealed the illegal detention and torture of innocent members of the SCC.

It was initially believed that Gong was innocent of these crimes and that these accusations were manufactured by the Chinese authorities to discredit him and to provide an excuse to arrest him. This is not an uncommon occurrence against leaders of unregistered churches in China. However, as time passed, reports began to surface that certain accusations against Gong had a basis in truth and an investigation was undertaken by CAA to determine the veracity of these reports.

After an extensive independent investigation, CAA has concluded that Mr. Gong appears to be guilty of some of the accused criminal activities. Evidence suggests that he seduced and molested some female members in his church network over a period of several years. There is also evidence that he encouraged some members to use violence against those who betrayed SCC. At least three SCC members confessed they used violence in beating up some family members who were accused reporting church activities to local authorities.

CAA has received a letter from Gong Shengliang, admitting he is guilty of wrongdoings that led to his arrest and imprisonment. The letter was brought out of Mr. Gong's prison and emailed to CAA by a member of SCC. The style of the letter seems compatible with Gong's writing. In the letter, after thanking the international community for help and care, Gong admitted that he realized his mistakes and he is "going to correct them without any complaint." At the end of the letter, he said "I realized that I deserve this punishment for what I have done." It has not been possible for CAA to independently verify the intent of Gong Shengliang in publishing this prison correspondence or to confirm specific points of confession.

"Mr. Gong's confessions do not justify the extensive torture that the Chinese authorities used on members of the arrested SCC members including Gong himself, or the fact that none of the members received fair trials or their basic due process rights. Depriving people of their basic human rights only delegitimizes authorities, even when the charges are true," said CAA President Bob Fu. "We are still not sure of the scope of all Gong's wrongdoings and criminal activities. We regret that it took so long to make these findings public, but we wanted to confirm the accuracy of the accusations against Mr. Gong. We appeal to the current leadership of SCC to make a voluntary, full confession of their wrongdoings including their repeated efforts to mislead the international community. It remains the mission of CAA to support religious freedom within China and to support the full application of human and civil rights in all situations."

For further questions regarding this case, please contact CAA.

Issued by CAA on August 6, 2007

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