The renowned Chinese house church Pastor Cai Zhuohua faced a 4.5 hour trial a week ago at the People's Court of Haidian District in Beijing City. Charged with "illegal business operations" Pastor Cai is now facing between five and seven years' jail time, if convicted.
Voice of the Martyrs' (VOM) called for concern from the international community as it claimed the charges actually resulted from the Pastor's evangelistic activities.
Pastor Cai was arrested in September 2004 after the police discovered 200,000 pieces of Christian literature, including some Bibles, in a storage room overseen by him. His wife, Xiao Yunfei and her brother, Xiao were also arrested.
According to VOM, nine prominent lawyers and legal scholars volunteered to defend Pastor Cai in the Court, however, only five were allowed into the courtroom.
In addition, an observer sent from the US Embassy to be present at the trial was rejected. The trial was originally announced to be held in the hearing room no.3 at the People's Court of Haidian District in Beijing City. However, when the embassy staff arrived at that room, he was told that the hearing had been moved to hearing room no.6, and then he was forced to leave the premises.
Only one witness for the defence was allowed to testify. VOMâ€™s Todd Nettleton said she was an old Christian lady who told the court she had received free Christian literature from Pastor Cai.
This witness was said to be the key to the defence because if the literature was being given away for free, it is a "not-for-profit" activity, Pastor Cai cannot be charged with "illegal business practice".
With the high concern of the Beijing government, claiming it is the "most serious case on overseas religious infiltration since the founding of the People's Republic of China", human right watchdogs across the world have intervened to speak for the religious freedom of Chinese Christians in this case.
VOM urges prayer for the controversial case. Protest on paper to the government is also encouraged, which is believed to be effective as China is sensitive to international pressures.
"The verdict has not been announced yet. From what our sources in China are telling us, the verdict could be announced soon, or it could be announced a year from now. The Chinese government will probably wait until there are a lot of other things going on in the news and try to slip this in under the news cycle," said VOMâ€™s Nettleton.
The Texas-based China Aid Association (CAA), an organisation with a mission to tell the truth about Christian persecution in China, echoed that the case of Pastor Cai should be protested by the international community.
"We have seen more pastors arrested and ... put in jail, and numerous churches destroyed," Bob Fu, the President of CAA told Agape Press. "The persecution has been intensified. I think China's political leaders are now taking a very hard line policy against the unregistered churches."
"We Christians should urge both the U.S. government ... and the Chinese embassies in the US to press the Chinese government to act quickly to address the serious religious persecution and violation of religious freedom guaranteed by China's UN constitution," he continued.
Since 1999, the US State Department has designated China as a country of concern for religious freedom violations.