China Aid February 2016 Newsletter

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Dear friends of the persecuted,

Among the 17 countries that the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) has recommended in 2015 as “Countries of Particular Concern” (CPC), a designation for governments that engage or tolerate severe violations of religious freedom that are “systematic, ongoing and egregious,” five are from the Asia Pacific. And of the ten countries that are listed on USCIRF’s Tier 2 watch list, five are located in the Asia Pacific.

Several countries, including China, have been included on USCIRF’s CPC recommendation list since the U.S. Congress passed the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998 and created both USCIRF and the Office of International Religious Freedom at the State Department.

Religious communities are under attack and suffering persecution in North Korea, China, Pakistan, and Burma, among numerous other countries throughout the Asia Pacific region, and thus require a collaborative and unified response to combat these human rights violations.

In light of the global focus on addressing religious extremism and terrorism in the Middle East, including the atrocities carried out by ISIL/ISIS, China Aid is co-hosting the Asia Pacific Religious Freedom Forum (APRFF) from February 18-21. The forum aims to keep a light shined on religious freedom abuse in the Asia Pacific region and identify strategies and mechanisms to combat ongoing religious persecution.

As you read this issue of China Aid’s newsletter, the Asia Pacific Religious Freedom Forum (APRFF) will already be underway in Taiwan, which, in contrast to the mainland, has been recognized as a regional model for protecting religious freedom and related human rights.

APRFF delegates from Parliaments, non-governmental organizations, and religious communities representing various nations will be gathered together in Taiwan to declare to those persecuted for their faith in the Asia Pacific that their voices will not go unheard or unanswered.

It is my prayer that those persecuted for their faith will hear the calls for justice, religious freedom and basic human rights that will emerge from the APRFF.

Thank you for your continued prayers.

Expose, Encourage
China formally arrests human rights lawyers

Seven months after authorities detained hundreds of human rights defense lawyers, other legal professionals and rights advocates, more than a dozen were formally arrested in mid-January.

China Aid has closely followed the cases of lawyers Li Heping, Wang Yu, her husband Bao Longjun, and church elder Hu Shigen since they were taken into custody in the widespread crackdown on lawyers and advocates that began on July 9, 2015.

Li Heping
Wang Yu, a lawyer at Fengrui Law Firm, and her husband Bao Longjun, a human rights advocate and lawyer, were formally arrested on Jan. 13. Wang was charged with “subversion of state power,” which carries a sentence of 10 years to life in prison, and Bao was charged with “inciting subversion of state power,” a lesser charge carrying a sentence of 5-15 years. Both are being held in China’s northern Tianjin Municipality.

On Jan. 14, Hu Shigen, the elder of a Beijing house church who was detained on July 10 in connection with the crackdown, was formally arrested and charged with “subversion of state power,” according to his family, who received a notice from the Tianjin Municipal Public Security Bureau.

China Aid then learned of the arrest of human rights lawyer Li Heping on Jan. 19 after Li’s wife and lawyer went to the Tianjin Municipal Detention Center No. 1 to inquire about his whereabouts. Li’s lawyer later learned from a police officer that Li’s arrest was approved on Jan. 8; however, Li’s wife did not receive the arrest notice until Jan. 20.

Other notable detainees formally arrested for “subversion of state power” include: Li Chunfu, human rights lawyer and the brother of Li Heping; Zhou Shifeng, the director of Fengrui Law Firm; Wang Quanzhang, a Fengrui Law Firm lawyer; Li Shuyun, a Fengrui Law Firm lawyer; Liu Sixin, a Fengrui Law Firm administrative assistant; and Zhao Wei, assistant to Li Heping.

Of the 19 individuals who have been formally arrested, 11 were charged with “subversion of state power.”

China Aid exposes abuses, such as those experienced by the more than 315 Chinese citizens directly affected by the July crackdown, and encourages the abused by supporting their families in order to promote religious freedom and rule of law in China.

Church demolished, crosses removed
Authorities manhandle a Christian

Authorities in the neighboring Chinese coastal Fujian and Zhejiang provinces conducted a church demolition and two cross removals on Jan. 6 and Jan. 7, respectively.

Videos sent to China Aid showed officials in Fuqing, Fujian, demolishing Yulin Furen Christian Church on Jan. 6 for failure to register with the local government.

“Previously, it was registered and approved, but not in recent years,” an individual from the Fuqing Christian Association said. “At this time, a real estate certificate is required for registration [in Fuqing] … [Therefore], we cannot just go register, even if we want to do so. There are still many [churches] that have not registered.”

On Jan. 7, government personnel in Wenzhou, Zhejiang, forcibly demolished Nanhu Church’s and Wutian Dongzhuang Church’s crosses. Christians at both churches attempted to stop the officials, resulting in a scuffle and the detention of several church members.

“It is the sub-district and city management [officials] that united to demolish [the crosses],” a Wenzhou police officer said when China Aid called to inquire about the incident. “We only maintained order.”

China Aid exposes religious freedom abuses, such as those experienced in cases of forced demolitions, in order to promote religious freedom and rule of law in China.

Pastor arrested after opposing cross demos

Pastor Gu “Joseph” Yuese
Authorities in China’s coastal Zhejiang province charged the chairman of the provincial Chinese Christian Council (CCC) with embezzlement and re-assigned all ministerial leadership under him to different churches following his dismissal from his position of senior pastor China’s largest government-approved church in late January.

Pastor Gu “Joseph” Yuese of Hangzhou’s Chongyi Church was forcibly removed from his position as senior pastor according to a Jan. 18 document released by the local TSPM and CCC because of his public opposition to the hundreds of forced cross demolitions throughout Zhejiang since early 2014.

Gu’s family received an arrest notice on Jan. 28, stating that Gu was placed under “residential surveillance in a designated location,” a situation commonly known by experts as a black jail. Authorities also detained Gu’s wife, Zhou Lianmei, for a day and warned her not to leave the country.

On Jan. 30, China Aid learned that Gu was charged with “embezzling 10 million Yuan (U.S. $1.6 million) in funds.”

“His arrest marks a major escalation in the crackdown against those who oppose the forced demolition of crosses,” China Aid’s Bob Fu said. “He will be the highest-ranking national church leader arrested since the Cultural Revolution.”

China Aid reports cases like Gu’s in order to expose religious freedom abuses in China.

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