Senior Chinese House Church Leader Arrested; More Churches Raided Before Christmas
CAA(Midland, Texas)-December 10, 2004
China Aid confirms that one of the most prominent Chinese House Movement leaders pastor Zhang Rongliang was arrested on December 1, 2004.
According to CAA source, 53-year-old pastor Zhang was arrested at Xuzhai village, Zhengzhou city, Henan province in a rented apartment at about 1pm. One eyewitness said a Volkswagen car which apparently belongs to Ministry of State Security had been parked near that apartment before Zhangs arrest. The licence plate is given as Yu-A (illegible number) 0191. His wife and his children were not at home when arrest occurred and they were able to escape and is now in hiding. The apartment was searched and all Pastor Zhangs Christian DVDs, materials and photos revealing relationships with foreigners and foreign agencies were confiscated. According to CAAs reliable source, in the evening of December 1, the village where pastor Zhang was arrested was surrounded by many police and every household was searched. It was believed pastor Zhangs wife and children were the targets of the search. Meanwhile, Mr. Gao Shunping who help pastor Zhang get an ID for his travel during parole time also disappeared.
Moreover at least three house churches at Fangcheng area were raided last week after Zhangs arrest including the house of Ms. Xiao Mins parents. Xiao Min has been wanted by the authority because her prolific writing of Chinese indigenous worship songs which is known as Canaan Hymns.
There has been no communication with Pastor Zhang since his arrest, but it is believed that he is in custody in the Zheng Zhou area of Henan Province.
Pastor Zhang is the leader of the Fangcheng Mother Church, Henan and the leader of the China for Christ Church, which is one of the largest house church networks estimated to have more than 10 million members. He has been well known by the international community as one of the house church patriarchs. He is a co-author of the published House Churches of Chinas Confession of Faith and Declaration in 1999. He has been featured in a number of international articles and books, including Jesus in Beijing (2003) by former TIME journalist, David Aikman, Newsweek (12th May 2004), TIME magazine, Charisma and Christianity Today.
Pastor Zhang has been wanted for many years since his last imprisonment in August 1999. He has already spent twelve years in prison for his faith since his secret baptism in 1969 during five separate detentions. He experienced extreme harsh torture including electric shocks during his prison terms.
CAA also learned the arrest comes in the midst of a serious crackdown on the house churches. Alongside a generally worsening situation and increased arrests it is reported that there is now a disinformation campaign, similar to that used against the Falun Gong before the major crackdown against them. In recent weeks, Chinese government has launched an international media propaganda campaign. It was reflected from articles both in an overseas pro-China website called DUOWEI news and the New York Times within which the house churches were portrayed as secret religious fanatics even committing murder for new membership fight. It is believed that the Chinese government purposely provided misleading and untrue unbalanced information to these news medias by linking the house church with a criminal group disguised as religion called Eastern Lightning.
In September and in Kaifeng city alone there were over 100 pastors were arrested and at least 11 were sentenced to one to three years re-education through labor camps already. They are Pastor Zhang Wanshun, Ping Xinsheng, Guo Zhumei ,Yang Jianshe, Zhang Weifang, Zhang Tianyun, Yu Xiangzhi, Yu Guoying, Shun Fu, Chen Yanjing and Pastor Li Qun. These pastors, from 25 to 57 years old, were all accused as leaders of evil cult and already experiencing harsh treatment including severe beatings. Among them, pastor Ping Xinsheng has lost consciousness due to continuous beatings for three times since his arrest in August.
We are deeply concerned for pastor Zhang Rongliangs welfare and safety, especially as he suffers from serious diabetes for five years and may be unable to withstand the mistreatment that can be expected at this time. Said Bob Fu, president of China Aid. As the leader of a large network there is danger that he could be classified as the leader of a cult. As the police have also been hunting his two sons for some time, there is added concern that the interrogation will be harsh in order to obtain evidence about them and other members of the network. There is therefore concern that he may face particularly harsh treatment due to his international connections.
CAA urges the Chinese government to immediately release pastor Zhang and other prisoner of conscience. We ask all people of faith to join a peaceful protest to be held on Wednesday, December 22, 2004, at 11 AM around the United States and all over the world at the Chinese embassies and consulate offices. CAA will work together with the International Campaign to Block the Repatriation of the North Korean Refugees for the protest.
List of Chinese Embassy and Consulates in the US:
Embassy of the Peoples Republic of China
2300 Connecticut Ave NW
Washington DC 20008
Tel:(202) 328-2500 Fax: (202) 588-0032
Director of Religious Affairs:
Chinese Consulate General in Chicago, IL
Address: 100 West Erie Street, Chicago, IL 60610
Tel: (312) 803-0095
Fax: (312) 803-0110
Chinese Consulate General in Houston, TX
Address: 3417 Montrose Blvd., Houston, TX 77006
Tel: (713) 524-0780
Fax: (713) 524-7656
Chinese Consulate General in Los Angeles, CA
Address: 443 Shatto Place, Los Angeles, CA 90020
Tel: (213) 807-8018
Fax: (213) 380-1961
Chinese Consulate General in New York, NY
Address: 520 12th Avenue, New York, NY 10036
Tel: (212) 244 9392
Fax: (212) 502 0258
Chinese Consulate General in San Francisco, CA
Address: 1450 Laguna St. San Francisco, CA 94115
Tel: (415) 674-2940
Fax: (415) 563-4861
Issued by China Aid Association, Inc. on December 10, 2004.