Three Church Leaders Tried in Secret

( [email protected] ) Mar 26, 2004 02:40 PM EST

According to Human Rights in China, Liu Fenggang, Xu Yonghai and Zhang Shengqi, the three house church leaders were tried secretly at the Intermediate People’s Court of Hangzhou in Zhejiang Province on the morning of 16 March.

They were charged of "providing intelligence to organizations outside of China",for which they could each be sentenced to imprisonment for 10 years to life.

The arrest of Liu Fenggang and the others were due to a research Liu carried out on the crackdown of house churches in Hangzhou Xiaoshan District last July. Liu released his report to organizations overseas. Xu Yonghai assisted Liu by printing the report while Zhang Shengqi helped disseminate it through the Internet.

The trial was not opened to any family member of the three defendants.

The police tried to stop Xu's wife from leaving for Hangzhou to attend the trial of her husband. They claimed that it was due to upgraded security measures relating to the National People's Congress session. While Li Shanna threatened "serious consequences",the police relented and allowed her to go under escort by two police officers and the head of nursing at the hospital where she works. However, upon her arrival at Hangzhou, she learned that she would not be granted admittance to the court.

Zhang Shengqi's mother Li Mingzhi, and his girlfriend, Ye Jifei, were also refused to get into the court and the police finally forced them into a police vehicle and loaded them onto a train for Shandong.

The issue catches attention of a few organizations which have been urging the public to pray for a fair and open trial.

"The world is watching. Is there any justice in China for those who refuse to register their religious activities with the government? These men revealed no state secrets. Their only crime is telling the world how China's Communist government treats Christians." said Todd Nettleton, VOM's Director of News Services.

"By conducting this trial in secret, the Chinese government acknowledges that its persecution of these Christians is a shameful act that cannot be exposed to the light of day", commented HRIC president Liu Qing.

"While the court has not yet released its verdict against these three men, the Chinese government has effectively delivered its own verdict against the sincerity and effectiveness of its plans to acknowledge human rights in China's constitution. While the National People's Congress discusses adding that brief sentence to the constitution, three innocent men contemplate much longer sentences for activities that no free and democratic country in the world considers a crime", he continued.