Chinese house churches await a response from the United Nation Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, after filing a petition for Pastor Gong Shengliang’s release, Thursday.
In addition, family members and associates of the pastor have filed an appeal for medical parole to Chinese prison authorities for Gong’s failing health. According to various human rights group, Gong continues to be denied proper medical treatment for his condition.
The South China Church pastor was arrested in December 2001, and charged with sexual assault, deliberately causing injury, and leading an illegal cult. The Chinese court initially sentenced Gong and four other SCC leaders to death, but commuted the sentence to life imprisonment.
12 other members of the house church were also tried and given sentences ranging between 2 years to life-in-prison.
The three women whom Gong was alleged to have raped recanted their confessions in written letters stating that their testimonies – used as evidence against Gong – were obtained after police shackled, whipped, beat and kicked them with electroshock batons.
According to letters smuggled from Gong’s cell in Feb. thru April 2002, the rape charges were never raised by the prosecution during his trial, but he was nonetheless given the death sentence. Human rights group including Amnesty International stated that the court may had already decided Gong’s guilt on rape charges extracted through the women’s confessions.
Gong was also convicted of "causing deliberate injury," though no clear evidence was presented at the time of trail. Amnesty International reported that the evidence may have also been "based on confession obtained through torture" of the witnesses involved.
In Sept. 2002, the Hubei Provincial High People’s Court ordered a retrial, reportedly because of unsubstantial evidence to convict him. Gong’s death sentence was commuted to life in the process.
Gong, who is in his 50s, reportedly suffers from complications from his beatings, including severe stomach respiratory problems (possibly asthma), deafness in the left ear, and walking difficulties. He also continues to pass blood in his urine and stool from duodenal ulcer.
Last year in March, Amnesty International urged licensed physicians to send letters of appeal to the Hubei Provincial government calling for his release, while citing Gong’s deteriorating health.