Hunan authorities settle with Christians out of court, agree to all demands

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Dongkou County People's Court
(Photo courtesy of Xie Yang.)
China Aid Association

(Shaoyang, Hunan—Nov. 5, 2014) When a group of church members in China’s central Hunan filed a lawsuit against the Dongkou County Public Security Bureau of Shaoyang, public security agents agreed to meet the Christians’ demands to return confiscated funds, restore power to a church facility, void bail pending trial and return bail funds paid by believers.

The Christians, all from the Dongkou County and Longhui County branches of a larger house church based in Shaoyang County, Shaoyang, were initially detained on Aug. 7 and the following days after they gave a religious flyer to a government employee who followed the group to their place of worship and reported them to police.

The group consisted of 15 church and lay leaders. Twelve were criminally detained for “organizing cults and sects and using superstition to undermine law enforcement,” according to criminal detention notices, and three were administratively detained. All detainees were released between Aug. 22-27 after paying bail or reaching the end of their 15-day administrative detention.

Only six out of eight believers from Dongkou County who were criminally detained chose to sue the local public security bureau, demanding that they drop the “cult” charges against them. The two other Dongkou detainees and the four believers from Longhui County chose, for unknown reasons, not to pressure authorities to drop their charges.

Before the lawsuit between the Christians and the Dongkou Public Security Bureau resumed on Oct. 20, the two parties reached an agreement to drop the charges, return the church’s missing 20,000 Yuan (US $3,270) and the believers’ bail payment of 10,000 Yuan (US $1,635), and restore power to the church’s nursing home. Authorities had already returned the church members’ confiscated funds and items on Sept. 12.

“We demanded that the police not prevent us from holding gatherings,” Pastor Zhu, a local, said of the pre-trial negotiations. “We also demanded that they return all the items they took from us.”

“Before making statements, we were prepared for the reconciliation,” lawyer Xie Yang, one of the attorneys representing the Christians, said. “This is a religious case, and the site where the worshippers will hold gatherings is in the jurisdiction of the defendant. We will hold many religious activities. If we don’t reach a reconciliation, it will cause trouble for our future religious activities.

“One police officer said that the case involving these six people cannot be canceled and that he can only cancel the bail, but the case will still be there. The reason is that, as a county-level public security agency, they don’t have the right to cancel such a case. However, he promised us that they would never stir things up with this case,” Xie said.

Officials also told the Christians that, as of Oct. 22, power hadn’t been restored to the church’s nursing home because the Shaoyang Domestic Security Protection Squad had interfered with the Dongkou County government’s request to the power company to restore the electricity.

There were other victories in the case as well. “More than 100 Christians attended the court session,” Xie said. “During the court trial, they demonstrated a high degree of discipline. After the trial ended, I made a short speech. I said that the public security agency should cautiously use the rights endowed to it by the people. ‘In conducting your business, you must abide by the relevant legal regulations. You should treat all the Chinese citizens kindly.’ At these words, there was loud applause.”

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