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House Church Leaders Charged

February 24, 2004

Human Rights in China (HRIC) has learned that house church leaders Liu Fenggang and Xu Yonghai have been formally charged with revealing state secrets.

According to sources in China, Liu Fenggang’s wife, Bi Yuxia, was notified by telephone by the Zhejiang Procuratorate on February 23 that Liu had been formally charged, and that the family were entitled to retain the services of a lawyer. When Xu Yonghai’s wife Li Shanna learned of Liu’s situation, she telephoned the procuratorate and was told that Xu had also been formally charged, and that she could hire a lawyer for him. Under Chinese law, revealing state secrets is an offence punishable by a prison term of five years to life.

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

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

HRIC deeply deplores the prosecution of Liu Fenggang and Xu Yonghai. “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,” said HRIC president Liu Qing. “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 calls for the immediate releases of Liu Fenggang and Xu Yonghai, and a medical examination of their physical condition given their extended detention.