A prominent activist in China's underground Protestant church has been released from a labor camp after serving two-year sentence, U.S.- based monitoring group reported Wednesday.
Zhang Yinan, 47, was escorted out of the camp near central China city of Zhengzhou on Sunday. However, prior to his release, police officiers instructed him on what he may or may not say after his release, according to China Aid Association, headquartered in Midland, Texas.
After Zhang's release, police confiscated his identification card -- needed to check into hotels and board planes -- apparently to restrict his travel, the group said.
Officers who answered phones at Zhengzhou's two labor camps for men said they were not authorized to release any information about prisoners.
Zhang was arrested in September 2003 on the charge of attempting to subvert China's government and political system, and later sentenced without trial to two years reeducation through labor. As a church leader, Zhang had been active in documenting the history and advocating unity of the house church movement.
Immediately after Zhang's arrest China Aid reported on this case and it brought the attention of international community. On Nov 26, 2004, the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention of the Commission on Human Rights of the United Nations came to the conclusion that deprivation of Zhang's liberty is arbitrary, as being in the contravention of Article 9, 19, and 20 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. And requested the Chinese government take the necessary steps to remedy the situation, according to statement released from CAA.
Bob Fu, president of CAA, said that international attention that was given to Zhang's case had persuaded China to give him a relatively light punishment.
"The timely release of Mr. Zhang reflects the fact that the international community can be mobilized to urge the Chinese government to honor its commitment on the rule of law and international covenants," Fu stated in an e-mail. "We urge the Chinese government to release all the prisoners of conscience like Mr. Zhang."
China's authorities allow worship only in tightly controlled state-church and those who meet in "house churches" are routinely harassed and fined, and sometimes sent to labor camps.
Up to 50 million Chinese are believed to worship in unofficial Protestant congregations, far more than the 10 million followers claimed by the official Protestant church, which is called the "Three-Self Patriotic Movement."