• Thu
  • Dec 25, 2014
  • Updated: 6:24pm

China court jails Christian pastor for 12 years

Harsh sentence handed down by Henan court to Christian pastor Zhang Shaojie seen by his supporters as a part of a crackdown on growing religious activity

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 05 July, 2014, 2:16pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 05 July, 2014, 2:16pm

The pastor of a Christian church in central China was sentenced to 12 years in prison on Friday in what supporters say is a crackdown aimed at curbing fast-growing religious activity, his lawyer said.

Zhang Shaojie of the Nanle County Christian Church in Henan province was convicted of fraud and of gathering crowds to disturb public order, according to lawyer Yang Xingquan.

Zhang’s church is sanctioned by the government, which allows worship only in state-monitored groups, but has been involved in a dispute with local authorities over land for a new building.

By official estimates, China has 23 million Christians. The country also has a large number of unsanctioned underground, or home, churches that have attracted millions of worshippers and have been targeted in repeated crackdowns. A report by the Washington-based Pew Research Centre said there were probably 67 million Christians in the country in 2010, including 58 million Protestants and 9 million Catholics.

The ruling party is wary of religion as a possible rallying point to challenge its rule and uneasy about the rapid spread of Christianity three decades after Beijing loosened social controls in pursuit of economic development.

In the eastern province of Zhejiang, where Christianity has been particularly popular, local governments have been tearing down crosses on Christian churches, even if they have been officially sanctioned, on the grounds that they lack construction permits.

“In the eyes of the authorities, Christianity is growing too fast there, and pastor Zhang was too influential.”
lawyer Yang Xingquan

The crackdown on Christian churches could be an extension of an ongoing campaign to suppress the growth of civil society in the country, said Professor Fenggang Yang, a sociologist and expert on religion in China at Purdue University in the US.

The churches might have become a target because Chinese Christians, perhaps emboldened by the growth in the number of followers around them, are more likely to assert their rights, Yang said.

“In China, Christianity or Protestantism is different from other religions somehow. One is that they have local congregations, they gather together regularly, showing support for each other spiritually, but that could spill over into social action,” Yang said.

“The increasing number of Christians, perhaps, gives Christians more confidence to resist human rights violations and civil rights violations. I think size does matter.”

In Nanle, phone calls to the county court rang unanswered on Friday. Yang, the lawyer, said Zhang had told the court that he would appeal.

Zhang was detained last year after the land dispute, but the lawyer said he was targeted due to his popularity in a region that has seen rapid growth in the number of Christians.

“In the eyes of the authorities, Christianity is growing too fast there, and Pastor Zhang was too influential,” Yang said.

Zhang was convicted of instigating years-old disputes involving his congregation members, even though the disputes with a dentist, an insurance business and a family planning office were long dismissed, Yang said.

The pastor also was accusing of swindling money, but prosecutors failed to produce a key witness to testify, Yang said.

Bob Fu, president of the US-based Christian rights group China Aid, said the verdict against Zhang was “totally unacceptable”.

“This case shows the Chinese government continues to cover up religious persecution with fabricated criminal charges against an innocent church leader,” Fu said in an e-mailed statement.



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This article is now closed to comments

That's how communist party rules. It doesn't surprise anyone. I hope China will be a democratic country, and without communist party is much better for Chinese.
I hope China will be a country without Christians... Fat chance though: stupid people form the majority of the population and are susceptible to Christian brainwashing... Just travel to the US Midwest to see the evidence
No rule of law, judges are puppets, police are as corrupt as the ruling political elite, and an intolerant, paranoid dictatorship uses oppression to stifle anyone it sees as a threat.
How long can this last?
And so Archbishop Paul Kwong said : In Mainland China there is religious freedom not different from Hong Kong, people can sing and people can preach.
Was he ignorant or not telling the truth ?
Well said. Religion brainwashes people that have weak "willpower". Religion is a hypo and is the main cause for so many wars in centuries - like the so called Crusaders (who were a bunch of villains and being gathered by the then bishop to invade the East, instead of letting them to commit crimes in then Europe), the century conflicts between the Catholics and Protestants in Ireland, the never ending middle-East conflicts, the Baltic conflicts. And, history shows that the westerner exploited the religions then to spy and to invade China during the end of Ching Dynasty, the current bishop in Hong Kong being exploited as lackey for the western world to push for so-called democracy - these people would not even dare to **** when under the British appointed governor who has absolute power without providing a pinch of democracy then. Smart Chinese Leadership is sane enough not to allow those kind of acts to repeat in China - kudo to the job well done. As a result, the new China's miraculous accomplishments (in a short time span of about 30 years) form a fish-bone in the eyes of those who are so jealousy because they know damn well that they can never catch up with China. And, therefore can no longer take advantage of ripping off the treasures and resources that they committed in old days.


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