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Continued persecution of protestants

November 24, 1998

China's persecution of protestants continues as house church leader - Cheng Meiying is beaten unconscious, Li Qingrui is shot, and others are detained and given exorbitant fines. Over 70 protestants remain in detention.

Following the October 26 and November 5 crackdowns on Protestants in the Henan cities of Wugang and Nanyang, over 70 house church leaders from all parts of China remain in detention at the Fangcheng Prison and at an undisclosed location in Nanyang. While imprisoned, these church leaders have suffered a range of torture and abuse.

Cases of urgent concern include that of Ms. Cheng Meiying, who had traveled from Northeastern China to attend the national meeting of house church leaders in Wugang on October 26. During her imprisonment, Ms. Cheng suffered relentless beatings, in which police officers struck her with a water-soaked whip made of hemp rope and repeatedly thrashed her head and face with a heavy-weight police baton. The beatings resulted in serious head injuries and caused Ms. Cheng to lose consciousness for three days. After Ms. Cheng regained consciousness, the police released her on November 21, in an apparent attempt to avoid responsibility and consequences. At present Ms. Cheng suffers complete memory loss. She has no control over her mental state and exhibits the appearance of insanity.

Cheng Meiying is originally from Henan province. After becoming involved in China's house churches, she became a devoted missionary in areas including Heilongjiang, Inner Mongolia and Hebei. According to knowledgeable sources, Ms. Cheng was either directly or indirectly involved in the establishment of several thousand house churches and the conversion of several hundred thousand people. She was one of the most influential house church leaders to attend the national meeting. Ms. Cheng has a son in middle school who traveled with her on her missions. Due to her participation in China's house church movement, Cheng Meiying has been detained and imprisoned by the Chinese police on numerous occasions.

Another case of urgent concern is that of Mr. Li Qingrui. While attending the October 26 meeting in Wugang, Mr. Li was able to escape the encirclement of public security authorities. However, Mr. Li was pursued by a police officer who shot Mr. Li in the thigh, causing serious injury. Li Qingrui was sent to the hospital for emergency treatment. Once his condition was no longer critical, he received the help of sympathetic individuals who assisted him in escaping the hospital. However, public security officers have issued a nationwide warrant for Li's arrest.

Others detained at the October 26 meeting include two missionaries from Taiwan. They were released shortly following apprehension, after they were ordered to pay an astronomical fine. They were then immediately escorted out of China.

Currently detained house church leaders total over 70, including Han Rognqin, Song Jianxuan, Wang Kaiju, Quan Ailing (female), Zhang Qingyun, Liu Xiang (female), Li Ping (female), Liu Yuanpo, Ma Yunhai and Li Xiaona (female) who were apprehended in Wugang, as well as Lu Lianquan and Zhang Fushan who were apprehended in Nanyang.

It seems that the Chinese Public Security Bureau has adopted a method of ransom for religious detainees-forcing them to pay exorbitant fines in order to obtain release. According to regulations delineated in an internal document of the Chinese government, religious organizations and followers can be fined between 500 and 50,000 yuan for engaging in unofficial religious activities. In reality, it is common for detained religious followers to be freed from imprisonment and torture only after paying over 10,000 yuan in fines, or several times this amount. The funds used to pay fines are typically raised by house church supporters both inside and outside of China. According to our understanding, as fines get steeper and the number of religious detainees increases, church funds are being stretched, and it is becoming more and more difficult to secure release. According to church insiders, the 70 Protestant leaders currently under detention have no means to pay fines.

Human Rights in China's November 9 press release on the Protestant detentions in Henan attracted much international attention, which lead to positive effects in China. According to David Zhang, the spokesperson for China's house churches, and other followers, news of the detentions was both significant and helpful. Changes in the attitude and actions of public security officers were detected after the incident received international media coverage and attention. They believe that such attention was a factor in Ms. Cheng Meiying's release. For this reason, David Zhang wishes to make another appeal to garner support for the house church leaders and followers who are currently imprisoned. (See below)

Human Rights in China calls upon the international community, especially international religious organizations, to use their influence to urge the Chinese government to stop the bloody persecution and detention of religious followers. Human Rights in China also calls upon the international community to show concern and provide support for all those repressed for their religious beliefs.


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A Solemn Appeal to the Chinese Government
by David Zhang, Spokesperson for China's House Churches

  • We strongly demand that the Chinese government fully respect the right to freedom of religion stipulated in China's constitution and enshrined in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Accordingly, we demand the unconditional release of all detained house church leaders.
  • With regard to the beating and maiming of Ms. Cheng Meiying, the Chinese government must provide proper reparations and must punish the perpetrator.
  • Repeal the arrest warrant for Mr. Li Qingrui and the many others who are being persecuted for their religious beliefs.
  • Allow the free assembly of China's house churches, independent of the Sanzi Patriotic Church movement.
  • Abolish all persecution against house churches. Put an end to the labeling of our beliefs as heretical, and recognize the faith of house churches as genuine.
  • Christianity is a religion based on love, and can serve as an important factor in China's stability. We hope that the Chinese government can seriously consider this fact and change its false perceptions of Christianity and house churches.

We also call upon the international community to show special concern for the fate of China's house churches, and to express support for those who have been persecuted and imprisoned so that they may attain freedom.