The fundamental right to peacefully practice religion is under serious threat in China, according to an Amnesty International National Director.
In a recent statement by Kate Allen of Amnesty International in the United Kingdom, the director said the recently-arrested Chinese Church leader, Zhang Rongliang "is at grave risk of torture simply for his religious and spiritual beliefs."
Zhang, a prominent leader of the China for Christ Church, was detained by police on Dec. 1 for possessing Christian DVDs, photographs and other materials that revealed his "connection with foreigners, foreign agencies and overseas organizations". It is believed that Zhang is now at serious risk of torture--one of the many risks of practicing religion outside government control.
"To persecute and torture somebody for their beliefs contravenes all international human rights principles," Allen said.
As Zhang is diabetic and there are concerns that he may not receive the medical care or treatment he needs, Amnesty International has issued an 'Urgent Action' appeal.
"We are appealing to the Chinese authorities to release Zhang Rongliang immediately and unconditionally," Allen said on behalf of Amnesty International.
The arrest of Zhang Rongliang also comes as a number of underground church pastors have been jailed after unfair trials, eleven of which have been sent to labor camps for "re-education". Accused of leading an "evil cult," several have reportedly been severely beaten.
Currently, China requires that all people who wish to practice a religion do so at a state-sanctioned church, mosque or temple. This rigid political control has driven many Christian churches "underground." Members of these churches meet in private house rather then state-sanctioned church buildings.
However, anyone in China who practices their religion outside government control is at serious risk of arrest, unfair trial and torture. Since March 2003, a crackdown on underground churches has been underway and authorities have demolished many unauthorized places of worship used by Protestants and Catholics.