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Pastor’s trial postponed, story behind fabricated ‘fraud’ charges explained

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Pastor Zhang Shaojie on Feb. 11, 2014. (Photo: ChinaAid)
China Aid Association

(Nanle County, Henan—Feb. 19, 2014) The Nanle County Christian Church pastor’s trial, originally set for Feb. 21 in the centrally-located Henan province, has been indefinitely postponed, according to a text notification received by the pastor’s lawyer yesterday.

ChinaAid reported yesterday that Pastor Zhang Shaojie’s trial would begin on Feb. 21, despite efforts to obtain a change in venue (http://www.chinaaid.org/2014/02/black-jail-exposed-in-nanle-county.html). However, Zhang’s lawyer Liu Weiguo received a text message yesterday, which said that Zhang’s trial had been postponed indefinitely. The text gave no reason for the delay.

The fraud charge against Zhang is said to have been brought to authorities’ attention by church member Li Cairen (http://www.chinaaid.org/2014/01/exclusive-identity-of-12-detained-nanle.html). However, Li has been illegally held since Dec. 21 when police found her hiding at the Zhang family home. Lawyers involved in the case have voiced their skepticism that a person who exposes a crime would be held illegally.

ChinaAid incorrectly reported yesterday that when Li’s son was killed in a work-related accident three years ago, the church helped raise money for the funeral. Instead, when Li asked Zhang for help, he negotiated a settlement package between Li and her’s son’s employer.

Zhang’s indictment paper claims that Li was misled by Zhang and was required to pay the pastor a portion of the compensation package his help.

“Pastor Zhang Shaojie will likely be the first Three-Self Patriotic Movement pastor facing trial and imprisonment for justice and rights defense since the end of the Cultural Revolution,” Bob Fu, ChinaAid’s founder and president, said.

“Given the President’s recent remark highlighting religious freedom as a U.S. foreign policy priority during the National Prayer Breakfast, I urge the President and Secretary [Kerry] to clearly express the U.S. government’s grave concern over this religious persecution case,” Fu said.

Zhang has been in police custody since he was forcibly taken during a meeting with government officials at his church on Nov. 16 (http://www.chinaaid.org/2013/11/three-self-sanctioned-church-pastor-and.html).

Along with the fraud charge, Zhang is also charged with “gathering a crowd to disturb public order.” This charge stems from a group of church members who attempted to travel to Beijing to petition a higher court about a land dispute between the church and the Nanle County government.

ChinaAid calls for the release of the nine remaining Christians who are detained. We also ask the Chinese government to respect citizens’ religious freedom by allowing believers to worship freely in their own churches.

ChinaAid Contacts
Rachel Ritchie, English Media Contact
Tel: 1+ (888) 889-7757 | Other: (432) 689-6985
Email: r.ritchie@chinaaid.org
Website: www.chinaaid.org | www.monitorchina.org