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Updated: Upcoming trial for house church pastor sentenced to four years in prison

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Photo: Lawyer Chen Jiangang holds a
banner outside the court reading
“Believing in Christ is our freedom;
persecuting Christians is a crime.”

(Photo: China Aid)
China Aid
Translated by Carolyn Song. Edited in English by Ava Collins.

Updated at 10:03 a.m. CST on Oct. 15, 2015

(Cao County, Shandong—Oct. 13, 2015) A house church pastor in China’s coastal Shandong, arrested June 2014 and sentenced to four years in prison in May, will soon face another trial to establish a final verdict.

More than 30 municipal police officers detained Zhao Weiliang and 22 other church members during a raid on a church choir practice on June 25, 2014. While many of those detained were released quickly, Zhao and two others, Cheng Hongpeng and Wang Aimei, were detained until May 2015, at which point Wang was released. However, Zhao and Chen were found guilty of “using a cult to undermine law enforcement” and sentenced to four and three years in prison, respectively. Police claimed that Cheng and Zhao were members of the Total Scope Church, also known as the Born Again Movement, which the Chinese government recognizes as a cult.

Regarding Zhao’s upcoming trial, his wife Liu Cuiping said, “An acquittal is impossible. That would show how ridiculous the original sentence was. Instead, it will be good if his sentence is reduced to one year.”

Liu said that the court gave her husband a stricter punishment because he had a criminal record, having previously been sentenced to administrative detention in 2006 for “disturbing social order” and sentenced to 1 1/2 years in a labor camp in 2009 for so-called “cult activity.”

“This time we hired a lawyer and fully understood legal regulations. The false label of ‘cult members’ can finally be taken off,” Liu said of the most recent arrest and trial.

Liu told a China Aid reporter that without Zhao, who was previously the family’s only source of income, she and her two children are being supported through church offerings and help from relatives.

The detention center where Zhao is being held does not allow visitors. Liu said she has not seen her husband since his trial in May but does not believe he is being mistreated.

China Aid provides legal aid in cases like this to support innocent Christians who are penalized for practicing their religion and to encourage lawyers, who typically use their own funds to defend these cases, to take a stand against persecution of Chinese citizens’ rights to religious freedom. If you would like to join China Aid in supporting human rights defense lawyers and encouraging the abused, please consider making a contribution here.

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