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Update: Believers speculate reasoning behind postponement of Nanle County pastor’s trial

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Zhang Shaojie in an undated
photo. (Photo: ChinaAid)
China Aid Association

(Nanle County, Henan—Feb. 19, 2014) Nanle County Christian Church members told ChinaAid today that they believe the delay in their pastor’s trial may have something to do with National Political Consultative Conference and the National People’s Congress to be held in early March or that it is caused by a delay in orders from superiors.

Believers suggested that authorities don’t want the case to shift citizens’ attention away from the conferences. Others said that officials in the Nanle County Court, where the trial was to be held on Feb. 21, may be waiting on instructions from their superiors.

The notification of postponed trial came to Pastor Zhang Shaojie’s lawyer Liu Weiguo via text message yesterday (http://www.chinaaid.org/2014/02/pastors-trial-postponed-story-behind.html). The message also said that Liu would be notified of the new trial date at another time.

Zhang Shaojie’s eldest daughter, Zhang “Yunyun” Huixin suggested that officials were afraid too many people would want to attend the court session as the reason for the delayed trial.

The trial was originally scheduled to begin on Jan. 28; however, when Liu’s co-counsel Zhao Yonglin submitted his credentials late, authorities sent Liu a notice stating that the trial had been postponed because Zhang Shaojie had changed lawyers (http://www.chinaaid.org/2014/01/three-christians-in-nanle-county-case.html).

ChinaAid learned today that the rescheduled trial date was originally Feb. 25, but was moved to Feb. 21 for unknown reasons.

“When they moved up the date, it caused me and Zhao a lot of trouble as we had to adjust the time for other cases. Besides, there are 14 books in the Nanle case, and we needed to read them together and study our defense,” Liu said. “Now, the court suddenly notified us that the court session originally planned is canceled. This has brought problems in the court sessions for other cases and has again caused us new troubles in our work.”

Liu said he hopes the court will provide an explanation for the change. “The court made arrangements for the court session and then canceled it at will…without consulting us lawyers. Though there are no prohibiting stipulations on such conduct, this is obviously disrespectful to the lawyers and the people who will attend the lawsuit, including the family members.”

“We hope that before the Nanle Court decides about the next court session, they can consult us lawyers about the date.”

The Nanle County religious case began over a land dispute between the Nanle County Christian Church and local authorities. It was when a group of believers attempted to travel to Beijing in November to petition a higher authority about the matter that the local government began detaining Christians (http://www.chinaaid.org/2013/11/three-self-sanctioned-church-pastor-and.html).

More than 20 believers were initially detained, and nine remain in custody. Zhang Shaojie is charged with fraud and “gathering a crowd to disturb public order.”

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