Two China house Church Leaders Indicted

( [email protected] ) Mar 01, 2004 02:30 AM EST

Human Rights in China (HRIC) reported that China has indicted two leaders of the unofficial Protestant church for allegedly obtaining and revealing state secrets. Church historian Liu Fenggang and psychiatrist Xu Yonghai were indicted last week in the eastern city of Hangzhou.

Liu Fenggang was arrested in Hangzhou on October 13, 2003, and his home was searched on October 15, leading to the confiscation of a computer belonging to Xu Yonghai. Xu Yonghai and his wife, Li Shanna, were arrested on the evening of November 9. Although Li Shanna was released six hours later, her husband has remained in detention since then.

Sources say that Liu Fenggang had been researching a comprehensive report on the official suppression of the house church movement in the Zhejiang Province following the arrest of more than 300 church members in July 2003. According to sources, the police subjected the Church members to physical abuse and inflicted damage to their house of worship and private homes where they gathered.

HRIC president Liu Qing stated, “It is ludicrous to designate as a state secret actions taken against members of the public such as the destruction of a house of worship and personal property. The government should certainly feel ashamed of such actions, which in no way conform with China’s claims of respecting freedom of worship. But the government is wrong to persecute people who want to raise public awareness of what has happened.”

HRIC called the indictments further evidence of China's crackdown on unofficial churches, despite its repeated claims to permit freedom of worship. However, Chinese officials routinely deny violating religious freedoms, saying that the detained activists are criminals who violated Chinese law and imperiled national security.

It has been reported that both men's wives have been told to hire lawyers to defend them. Usually, such trials are held in secret and almost always result in guilty verdicts.

HRIC is calling for the immediate releases of Liu Fenggang and Xu Yonghai, and a medical examination of their physical conditions given their extended detentions.