Just days after a Chinese court sentenced Pastor Wang Xiaoguang of Linfen Fushan Church in Linfen, northern Shanxi province to three years in prison and handed out three- to seven-year jail sentences to four other church leaders, ChinaAid Association learned that five more church leaders were each sentenced to two years in labor camps.
The sentences were reportedly given arbitrarily by the public security bureau without a proper court trial.
“To arbitrarily send five innocent citizens to labor camps is in direct violation against the international human rights covenants and norms the Chinese government has signed and even ratified,” said Bob Fu, president of CAA, in a statement. “This case shows the Chinese government is determined to be on the wrong side of history by clenching its power with suppressing the basic freedom of religion and conscience for Chinese citizens. We call upon the international community to hold these rights abusers accountable.”
Among the five Christian leaders is Yang Caizhen, whose husband Pastor Yang Xuan had received a three-year jail sentence by the court on Nov. 25. Yang Caizhen was reportedly severely beaten during interrogation, a witness told the Texas-based rights group. One of her front teeth is said to have been knocked out during the beating. She is reportedly fasting and praying during her detention and in very fragile condition.
CAA learned about the most recent sentences of Fushan church leaders on Nov 30, but it reportedly took effect from Nov. 11 when all the leaders were already detained.
The rights group said it confirmed the reality of the sentences with individual family members of three of the five church leaders. The other two members’ sentences were confirmed indirectly by Fushan church leaders.
In the latest sentences, the members were charged with “gathering people to disturb the public order” based on when they organized a 1,000 people prayer rally on Sept. 14 – the day after hundreds of people dressed as security force had raided and demolished 17 church buildings and injured more than 30 believers on the church campus.
The 50,000-member Fushan Church was raided on Sept. 13, by reportedly 400 people. Men tore at the building’s foundation with shovels as bulldozers worked to level other buildings on the site. Church members sleeping at the construction site of the new church building were attacked with bricks and other objects, according to CAA. Several members were severely injured and were sent to the emergency room, and some members were unconscious.
The attack is said to be the worst crackdown against a house church in the past decade.
After the attack, Yang Rongli, the wife of the church pastor, was leading a group of church members to Beijing to protest the destruction of the church when she was arrested and detained. Out of the ten church leaders who were given sentences, Yang was given the heaviest sentence of seven years in prison. She is accused of “illegal land occupation” and “assembling a crowd to disrupt public order.”
Yang and her husband, Pastor Wang, have led the Fushan Church for more than 30 years. During a break at their trial, they were said to have encouraged their son to stand firm in his faith in Christ despite thepersecution.
ChinaAid is urging people to contact authorizes in Linfen as well as the Chinese embassy in the United States to urge that the Fushan church prisoners be released.
By Worthy News Asia Service with Worthy News’ Stefan J. Bos
SEOUL/PYONGYANG (BosNewsLife)– An international Christian advocacy group welcomed Wednesday, August 5, North Korea‘s decision to release American journalists Euna Lee and Laura Ling but warned that at least 200,000 religious and political prisoners remain behind bars in labor camps across the isolated Communist nation, where executions of inmates continue.
Well-informed Open Doors said it was pleased that North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il issued a special pardon to the two female reporters, a move described by the North Korean News Agency as a sign of the country’s “humanitarian and peace-loving policy.”
Their return came after former U.S. President Bill Clinton made an unannounced visit to the capital Pyongyang to help secure their release. Ling and Lee had been found guilty of allegedly entering North Korea illegally across the Chinese border in March and later sentenced to 12 years of hard labor.
They reportedly were being held at what officials described as a “guest house” during their confinement. However Open Doors cautioned there is “no pardon” for thousands of Christians and other prisoners in North Korea. The country, it said, “is suspected of detaining more political and religious prisoners than any other country in the world at least 200,000, including 40,000 to 60,000 Christians.”
At least several prisoners are believed to have been executed. In one of the latest reported incidents North Korea publicly executed a Christian woman last month for distributing Bibles, The Associated Press news agency reported, citing information it received from South Korean activists. Ri Hyon Ok, 33, was reportedly also accused of spying for South Korea and the United States and organizing dissidents.
She was said to have been executed in the northwestern city of Ryongchon near the border with China on June 16, according to a report from an alliance of several dozen anti-North Korean groups.
Ri’s parents, husband and three children were sent to a political prison camp in the northeastern city of Hoeryong the following day. “This is the shocking reality of what takes place inside this Communist country where there is no basic human rights. One colleague of mine who has traveled to North Korea described North Korea “as an on-going nightmare,” said Jerry Dykstra, a spokesperson for Open Doors USA.
North Koreans can be imprisoned “for virtually any state-defined crime such as owning a Bible, making a negative comment about the regime, failing to have a picture of Kim Il-Sung in their house and traveling to China to look for food and freedom,” he added.
Dykstra said Kim Jong-Il’s government keeps its citizens in its grip through “systematic use of torture, public and private executions, brutal imprisonment, lack of due process of law, starvation and even forced abortions.” North Korea has been known to arrest not only a suspected dissident but also three generations of his or her family, rights groups say.
This year North Korea was re-designated by the U.S. State Department as one of eight “Countries of Particular Concern” for its severe religious freedom violations.
The Open Doors World Watch List of what it views as “the worst persecutors of Christians” has ranked the hermit country as the worst offender of religious freedom for seven years in a row. Open Doors said former prisoner Kim Young Soon testified about the situation earlier this year during the annual ‘North Korea Freedom Week’ in April before a group of Congressmen in Washington, D.C. The North Korean refugee is one of the few survivors of the infamous Yodok political prison camp.
She said she was thrown into prison for nine years on a trumped up charge of divulging a secret about Kim Jong-Il’s marriage. Her parents and four children were also imprisoned. “In the Yodok prison camp, her parents died of malnutrition, an eldest son drowned. Her husband was shot to death in 1970 while attempting to cross the border to escape from North Korea. Mrs. Kim’s youngest son was arrested in 1988 while attempting to cross the border and was put in prison for four years.
He was executed in 1993 by a firing squad because he tried to escape from North Korea again,” Open Doors said.
Kim escaped from North Korea and resettled in South Korea and has made it her life’s mission to expose the cruelty and truth about the prison camps in North Korea. She testified: “I entered prison camp No. 15 at Yodok. I spent nine years there; treated like an animal. What made me feel most mortified was the fact that my father, mother, daughter and three sons, who were innocent of any crime, were also sent to Yodok, all because of me.”
Kim said that she and her family members were “forced to engage in heavy labor day and night. On August 5, 1971, I lost my father. I had to wrap his body in a straw mat since there were no coffins in Yodok. Before long, my mother also died of malnutrition. Unbearable sadness cut my heart to pieces.” Kim said that still with tears in her eyes, she was “struck by another painful accident when my eldest son drowned. I was nearly mad with grief. Yodok was really a hell to me. I cried to God asking that He might burn them all to death in Yodok with lightning.”
She described how “very mountain and field in Yodok was covered with dead bodies because of malnutrition and hunger. In 1973, two detainees were killed by public execution at a place between Sector 3 and 4 on charges of trying to escape from prison. Countless numbers of detainees were killed by public execution and torture.” She said that, “Due to malnutrition and hunger, little children withered to death with their stomachs swollen.” Adults, she said, “were looking everywhere for young rats which they believed to be a kind of medicine to save their children. And they literally ate up all the snakes in Yodok to avoid painful death from malnutrition.”
Dykstra said that while the world can “rejoice” about the release of two American journalists, “praying and advocating” should continue “for those who have not received pardons; for those languishing in the “hell” that is North Korea.”
NEW DELHI, INDIA
Staff of a missionary school in India’s eastern state of Andhra Pradesh faced another day of anxiety Thursday, July 8, after Hindu militants attacked and threatened to kill them for allegedly converting Hindus to Christianity, Christians said.
Witnesses said at least three Hindu militants raided the Good Shepherd School in the village of Ippallapally on May 29, hitting several teachers and warning them to stop working in the village. They apparently also called them several derogatory names and threatened to kill them.
Raj Kumar, the school’s principal, suggested in published remarks he was shocked about the attack. “We have been doing social work in this village for the last three years, and have been involved in educational and community development programs,” he said in a statement distributed by advocacy group International Christian Concern (ICC).
However, “While we were advertising for new students in the village, three Hindutva activists approached us and abused us.” Hindutva is a term used to describe movements advocating Hindu nationalism in India.
The Good Shepherd School is a missionary school with seven staff members, and teaches 134 students from ages three to six, ICC said. It apparently includes in its curriculum a Biblical approach to science and ethics.
The school filed a complaint with the police, who reportedly promised to investigate. However Christians said they were still awaiting concrete actions against suspects Thursday, July 8.
The latest incident came amid reports of several attacks against India’s Christian minority. “This incident illustrates that radical Hindu persecution of Christians in India is a common occurrence,” said ICC Advocacy Director Jeremy Sewall.
“Hindu persecution of Christians in India is a common occurrence. Christian teachers ministering to India’s children risk their lives to bring the Gospel.”
The pastor of a major Chinese evangelical church and his wife have been sentenced to one year “re-education through labor” for “engaging in illegal religious activities,” trial observers confirmed Wednesday, July 1.
Advocacy group China Aid Association (CAA) told Worthy News that Pastor Dou Shaowen and his wife Feng Lu of Rock (Panshi) Church in Zhengzhou city of Henan province were sentenced to a labor camp.
However his wife has meanwhile been released to serve her sentence at home to care for her 12-year-old daughter, CAA added. “She is required to report to the Public Security Bureau regularly, and could be sent to labor camp again if she is found ‘engaging in illegal religious activities’,” the group explained.
The couple plans to appeal the verdict. “Attorney Li Dunyong has traveled to Zhengzhou city to represent Pastor Dou and Feng Lu for the Administrative Review and Appeal,” the group said.
Pastor Dou Shaowen and his wife Feng Lu were detained June 14, when several dozen security officials from broke into the church’s Sunday worship service, Christians said. Officials allegedly forcibly photographed and videotaped the more than 100 Christians present, cut off the electricity and forced the Christians to leave.
“Finally, the authorities posted sealing tape from the Bureau of Religion, sealing off all the worship areas of Rock Church,” CAA said.
Five other Christians,identified as Li Zhemin, Wei Jianhua, Zhang Julin, Ma Jianbo and Li Cuiying were arrested with Pastor Dou and Feng Lu and sentenced to 15 days of administrative detention. They were reportedly also forced to pay fines of up to 900 Yuan each ($132).
The case comes amid a reported crackdown on unauthorized worship services in several parts of China, a Communist-run nation where authorities say Christians are free to gather within state-backed denominations.
CAA said it had urged its supporters to contact authorities and demand the release of the Christians. It said Zhengzhou’s Mayor could be reached via phone: +86-371-12345, or e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Zhengzhou Municipal Public Security Bureau could be reached via +86-371-66228710, the group said.
‘I don’t know what I am supposed to have done wrong’
A school secretary whose daughter mentioned Jesus to a classmate now is facing discipline, including the possibility of dismissal from her position, for having sent an e-mail to friends from her home computer asking for prayer about the issue.
The case is developing, according to a report in the London Daily Mail, for Jennie Cain, a receptionist at Landscore Primary School in Crediton, Devon.
Her daughter, Jasmine, age 5, attends the school and recently was scolded by a teacher for talking about God and her faith, the report said. She was in tears after the discipline, the paper said.
Cain, who has worked at the school part-time since 2006, said after her work shift was completed – as a parent – she went to talk with teacher Sharon Gottelier about the situation. She then was summoned to the office of Principal Gary Read the next morning, where she was told “how he wasn’t happy about her making statements about her faith,” Cain told the paper.
After meeting with Read, Cain went home and e-mailed a prayer request about the situation to some friends at her church, and soon she was notified of the pending discipline for her statements in the e-mail.
“I felt embarrassed that a private prayer e-mail was read by the school – it felt like someone had gone through my personal prayer diary,” she told the paper. “I feel my beliefs are so central to who I am, are such a part of my children’s life.
“I do feel our beliefs haven’t been respected and I don’t feel I have been treated fairly. I don’t know what I am supposed to have done wrong,’ she said. She reported she doesn’t know how the school got a copy of her e-mail.
Christian Institute spokesman Mike Judge said children should be allowed to discuss religion without interference from teachers, the report said.
Cain said she now is being investigated for professional misconduct, and Read has confirmed the school’s board of governors is involved.
It is the second incident of Christians being disciplined or threatened by employers in the U.K. over issues of prayer in just the last few weeks.
It was just days ago WND reported a Christian nurse in Britain had been threatened with dismissal for offering to pray for her patients’ recovery.
A report from the Christian Legal Centre said the nurse, Caroline Petrie, later was restored to her position.
As WND reported, Petrie was suspended and faced further discipline because her employer claimed she failed to show a “personal and professional commitment to equality and diversity” when she suggested the prayer.