Five Linfen Church Leaders Released After 2 Years in Labor Camp: Glorifying God in Trials & TribulationsSaturday, August 27, 2011
China Aid Association
(Linfen, Shanxi – Aug. 27, 2011) Five leaders of the Linfen house church that was brutally destroyed two years ago by local officials and hired thugs who also severely beat church members have been released after serving two years in a labor camp, ChinaAid has learned. Five other leaders who were given longer sentences are still incarcerated.
The Linfen case was one of the largest cases of religious persecution in recent years. On Sept. 13, 2009, 400 local police, government officials and hired thugs descended upon the church, demolished its new building and clashed with hundreds of the 50,000 members of the Linfen church network who rushed to defend their church. Dozens were severely beaten, and more than 30 were hospitalized with critical injuries. (A short account and photographs can be seen here: http://www.helplinfen.com/2011/04/persecution-photos.html)
By November, 10 church leaders had been illegally detained. Five were sentenced to prison terms ranging up to seven years during a one-day show trial, and five others were sentenced to the labor camp terms.
The five who were released were four women: Gao Fuqin, Zhao Guoai, Yang Caizhen and Yang Hongzhen (from left to right in photo above), all of whom served their time at the Taiyuan Women’s Re-education-Through-Labor Camp. Also released was Li Shuangpin. (Double click on photo above to enlarge.)
Yang Caizhen was released on medical parole in February, after she nearly died due to a liver ailment. The others were released last month. Yang’s husband is still imprisoned, serving a 3-1/2 year sentence.
Police are still occupying the site where Linfen’s church’s Jindengtai (Golden Lampstand) church building once stood, and the church’s tens of thousands of believers have scattered like lost sheep, although they have continued to meet and worship in their homes.
The release of these five leaders has been a great encouragement and unifying event for these believers. Although each was physically and psychologically tormented during their two years in the labor camp, all five were strong and at peace spiritually and reported experiencing “glory in the midst of trials and tribulations.”
The five also said, “We sincerely urge all brothers and sisters around the world to pray for Linfen church, so that we may worship together in the Golden Lampstand church building at an early date. At the same time, we also ask brothers and sisters to remember in prayer the Linfen leaders who are still suffering in jail: Brothers Xiao Guang, Yang Xuan and Cui Jiaxing, and sisters Yang Rongli and Zhang Huamei. May the Lord move the police to release them early so that they can be reunited with their families. We who have been released express our most sincere gratitude to the brothers and sisters around the world who have been concerned about us and who have helped us. May God remember your prayers and what you did. God is with as all!”
ChinaAid founder and president Bob Fu said in response, “The Linfen church leaders and their families suffered cruel persecution for the sake of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the church. They paid the price with great honor for the sake of the Gospel. We express our great respect for them, and continue to lift up prayers for them and their families. These loyal and devoted brothers and sisters are not only the hope of the church, but also are the hope of Chinese society.”
Important Developments in the Case of Major Religious Persecution of Linfen Church
(Based on ChinaAid reports and the “Summary of the Seminar on the Linfen Religious Persecution Case and Religious Freedom” organized by Fan Yafeng, founder of Christian Human Rights Lawyers of China, and held on Nov. 21, 2011.)
At about 3 a.m. on Sept. 13, 2009, the local government of the Linfen city, Fushan county, in Shanxi province, mobilized more than 400 police and plainclothes thugs who, under the direction of government officials, entered the premises of the Fushan Christian Church and the Gospel Shoe Factory and brutally beat up the Christians who were in the dormitory. More than 100 were injured. Those who were severely injured lost consciousness immediately and had to be sent to hospital for emergency care. Fushan authorities also sent in bulldozers and excavating machinery, and destroyed dozens of building and made off with all sorts of church property, including televisions, refrigerators, cars, and even kitchen implements such as pots and pans and utensils.
After the bloody incident, thousands of Christians went and prayed aloud outside to the county government. The video of them calling on the authorities to repent quickly wound up on the Internet. On the morning of Sept. 17, Brother Shaan Yongchang was arrested by the authorities for posting news about Linfen on the Internet. On the afternoon of the 19th, the Linfen police chief held talks with Linfen church leader Yang Rongli and two other church leaders and came to an agreement wherein the authorities would compensate the church 140 million yuan (nearly US$22 million) and would allow the church to rebuild. But because the authorities refused to release Brother Shaan and also threatened the brothers and sisters, saying that if they insisted on continuing to attend house church meeting, his social welfare payments would be canceled. They also threatened Christian students at the Shanxi Normal University, ordering them to stop attending the Linfen house church meetings. Because of this, Yang Rongli refused to accept the 140 million yuan and hoped to resolve the matter by petitioning higher government offices.
On Sept. 23, the church’s Jingdengtai (Golden Lampstand) church building in Linfen city was surrounded by armed police. On Sept. 25, Yang Rongli and six other church leaders were kidnapped by police on the road on their way to the provincial capital of Taiyuan to lodge their petition. At the same time, the church’s staff and lay leaders were under surveillance or placed under house arrest for 24 hours. The situation continued to deteriorate. One Oct. 8, Pastor Wang Xiaoguang’s house was raided. On Oct. 11, nine church leaders, including Yang Rongli, were criminally detained, but the families of only four of the detainees were notified. Furthermore, although Yang Rongli and five other church leaders were jailed, the authorities did not follow any legal procedures. The indictment papers filed later said the arrests of Yang Rongli, Wang Xiaoguang, Yang Xuan, Cui Jiaxing and Zhang Huamei were approved on Oct. 21 by the Yaodu District People’s Procuratorate and they were arrested the following day. On Oct. 29, a rights defense lawyer testifying to the U.S. Congress about religious freedom in China specifically mentioned the Linfen religious persecution case in Shanxi. In response, on Nov. 2, the procuratorate speedily turned over the case to the courts.
On Nov. 25, the Yaodu Distict People’s Court of Linfen City found the defendants guilty of “unlawful occupation of agricultural use land” and “assembling crowds to disrupt traffic” and sentenced Yang Rongli to seven years’ imprisonment and a 30,000 yuan fine; Pastor Wang Xiaoguang to three years imprisonment and a 10,000 yuan fine; Yang Xuan to 3-1/2 years imprisonment and a 20,000 yuan fine; Cui Jiaxing to 5-1/2 years imprisonment and a 50,000 yuan fine; and Zhang Huamei to four years imprisonment.
On November 30th, the five other church leaders were charged with “assembling crowds to disrupt traffic” and were arbitrarily sentenced to two years re-education-through-labor, with time served starting from October 11. Those leaders included husband and wife Li Shuangping and Yang Hongzhen, Yang Caizhen (wife of Yang Xuan), Gao Qin, and Zhao Guoai.
Eyewitnesses told ChinaAid that Yang Caizhen appeared to have been beaten and was missing a tooth. In the spring of 2011, she was released on medical parole. She and the three other Linfen sisters all served their sentences at the Taiyuan Women’s Re-education-Through-Labor Camp, where they labored from 6 a.m. until 10 or 11 p.m. The work overload and the prison’s poor living conditions eventually led to Yang Caizhen developing serious health problems in February this year and being diagnosed with a liver cyst. Because her condition continued to worsen and developed into a liver abscess, she needed emergency medical treatment. The prison, however, refused to pay the medical bills, and therefore suggested that she be released on medical parole. Yang Caizhen’s brother went to the prison with the money to process her release on medical parole. After two weeks in the hospital, Yang Caizhen’s condition stabilized and she was released from the hospital and continues to recover at home.
The Linfen Church has more than 50,000 members. The church tradition of this region has been deeply influenced by the 19th century church leader, Pastor Xi Shengmo (a.k.a. Pastor Hsi, 1835-1896), who wrote many Chinese Christian hymns.
For more about the Linfen case, see the Help Linfen website:
and ChinaAid’s report of Yang Caizhen’s release: