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Still No Word on Chinese House Church Leader

There is still no word on the condition of house church leader, Zhang Rongliang, who was scheduled to have his third hearing at a Chinese court, Thursday. In over three decades of service to God, he h
( [email protected] ) Apr 06, 2006 10:21 PM EDT

There is still no word on the condition of house church leader, Zhang Rongliang, who was scheduled to have his third hearing at a Chinese court, Thursday.

The 55-year-old man reportedly suffers from diabetes and high blood pressure. Since Dec. 2005, Zhang has stayed in the hospital, where doctors diagnosed him with four other chronic illnesses.

Zhang was arrested Dec. 2004 for making an "illegal border crossing" and "attaining a passport through cheating." The house church evangelist has been imprisoned for 16 months, past the maximum sentence for anyone found guilty of using a false passport.

"It’s comes too late. It’s already a violation of Chinese law. He is being held without legal representation for more than a year," said China Aid Association president, Bob Fu, commenting on Zhang’s imprisonment.

"Only recently, he was able to hire civil lawyers. Even the hearing itself is not a public hearing, and not open to the public. We want to see a fair and quick hearing," Fu added. "This (hearing) is far overdue."

Zhang has been involved with the Fangcheng (now Zhang) fellowship since his youth. At one point, he was the protégé of legendary house church evangelist, Li Tianen.

"He’s a natural leader. He is quite a charismatic leader," said David Aikman, former Time magazine Beijing Bureau Chief, who knew Zhang during his time in China. "His capacity for work was impressive."

In Nov. 1998, Zhang along with leaders from the Fancheng, Tanghe, Born Again and Anhui house churches drafted the landmark agreement called "The Confession of Faith," that defined the "common standard of faith amongst house churches in China."

"He had a great ability to reconcile differing (views) between Christian groups," said the author of the landmark book "Jesus in Beijing". "He was one of the active persons in the house church network in favor of a unified Christian presence in China."

Aikman said that though Zhang held an orthodox view on Christianity, the charismatic leader still showed a high degree of tolerance for other forms of Christian worship.

"He had a greater capacity for accepting differences in spiritual practice, that he considered secondary, than any other Chinese Christians I have met," said Aikman.

In over three decades of service to God, Zhang Rongliang has been detained 5 times, and jailed for 12 years for his faith. His first arrest during the Cultural Revolution in 1974, led Zhang to toil in a labor camp for seven years.

Zhang remains imprisoned at Zhongmu City, in his native Henan Province.