House church leaders Liu Fenggang, Xu Yonghai and Zhang Shengqi were tried in secret on the morning of March 16 at the Intermediate People’s Court of Hangzhou in Zhejiang Province. Originally charged with “inciting the gathering of state secrets,” the three Christians were brought to trial on amended charges of “providing intelligence to organizations outside of China,” for which they could each be sentenced to imprisonment for 10 years to life.
“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,” said 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.”
The arrest of Liu Fenggang and the others stemmed from a report Liu carried out on the suppression of Christians in Hangzhou’s Xiaoshan District last July, in the course of which more than a dozen house churches were destroyed and at least 300 Christians were arrested, with some subjected to physical abuse.
Liu released his report to organizations overseas after traveling to Hangzhou in July to learn more about the incident. Xu Yonghai assisted Liu by printing the report, and Zhang Shengqi helped spread it through the Internet.
Public Security officers from Xiaoshan District detained Liu Fenggang when he returned to Hangzhou in October to carry out further research. Eight police officers searched Liu’s home on October 15 and confiscated a number items, including a computer belonging to Xu Yonghai.
Xu Yonghai, a doctor at a Beijing hospital, has been active in Christian youth groups and has been subjected to continual persecution and harassment. At one point, because of his religious beliefs Xu spent three years in a Reform Through Labor (laogai) camp. Hangzhou police detained Xu Yonghai on November 9.
Zhang Shengqi, 24, has been active in the underground church, and has used his technical skills to raise awareness of religious persecution through the Internet. Police from Xiaoshan District arrested him on November 26.
Human Rights in China (HRIC) reported that although family members of the three house church leaders were not allowed any information about the court proceedings, it is believed that the trial of the three men has not yet concluded, and the verdict and sentences have yet to be announced.
[source: Human Rights in China]