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PRAYER
China: Open to Trade but not to Liberty
World Evangelical Alliance (WEA) Religious Liberty
03-May-2006
While the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is opening China up economically to become wealthy and powerful, it keeps control by suppressing verything that could generate political dissatisfaction. A recent news release from China Aid Association (CAA) reports persecution of Protestant house-churches in China has intensified. According to CAA there were at least 1317 confirmed arrests of house-church pastors, leaders and believers between February and December 2005. Amongst those arrested in over 20 provinces were 17 foreign missionaries, including 11 Americans. CAA
reports most were released after being interrogated anything between 24 hours and several months. Foreigners were then ordered to leave the country. CAA also confirmed reports of arrested believers being tortured, as well as coercion of evidence through drugging. CAA reports more and more formerly tolerated religious fellowships are being deemed 'cults'.

China has a vast 'laogai' network of some 1100 'reform through labour' prison camps. They were set up in the 1950s by Chairman Mao with Russian assistance, following the Russian gulag model. Mao had been executing intellectuals and dissidents by the hundreds of thousands until he realised condemning them to slave labour would be just as effective and certainly more productive. That continues to this day and forms a vital part of the Chinese economy. China Aid Association has learned that jailed Beijing Pastor Cai Zhuohua, a Protestant pastor who was given a three-year sentence for distributing Bibles (see RLP 353), has been forced to work more than 10 hours a day producing commercial 'Made in China' handbags since his transfer to Tianhe Prison in January 2006.

House-church senior patriarch Zhang Rongliang (55) was arrested by Henan police on 1 December 2004. Imprisoned and tortured many times, Zhang suffers from diabetes and high blood pressure and his health is deteriorating. He was hospitalised from 19 December 2005 to 23 January 2006 to avoid the problem of a death in custody. One witness told Compass Direct (CD) they had seen Zhang handcuffed and chained to his hospital bed. Zhang's persecutors in the security services are struggling to make the charges against him stick. After a two-hour hearing on 6 April, the Zhongmu City People's
Court decided, due to 'insufficient evidence and ambiguous facts', his case should go to the Zhengzhou City Intermediate People's Court and legal advice sought. A decision is pending.

Another imprisoned senior house-church leader is Pastor Gong Shangliang. He was sentenced to death in December 2001 for running an 'evil cult'. After an international outcry he was re-tried in October 2002, only this time several church women were tortured into signing 'evidence' against him. One woman who refused to sign, Yu Zhongju, was beaten to death. The women later retracted their testimonies and were sent to the laogai, whilst Pastor Gong was sentenced to life in prison as a convicted rapist. His health has deteriorated markedly, with a particularly savage beating in May
2003 leaving him close to death. Over the past five years Pastor Gong (51) has become a frail, white-haired old man. A petition on his behalf has been submitted to the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, and his family and legal representatives have filed an appeal for medical parole.

Amidst this, there is real agitation for change in China: from the rural countryside to the city, from the farmer to the intellectual, and even within the CCP itself.
Our prayer...
* God will raise up leaders who will govern China according to
godly standards with wisdom, equity, honesty, justice and
liberty; pray especially for President Hu Jintao.

* God will deliver Pastors Gong Shengliang and Zhang Rongliang
from terrible injustice and abuse, sustain and relieve them in
their suffering, protect and strengthen their bodies and souls,
and care for their families.

* the pastors may know and experience the presence and love of
Christ, with the Holy Spirit comforting and counselling them and
empowering their witness.

* the Spirit of God will continue his great work in China, opening
people's hearts, minds, ears and eyes, and opening the nation to
his gospel and for his service. 'And when he [the Spirit] comes,
he will convince the world of its sin, and of God's
righteousness, and of the coming judgment.' Jesus, John 15:8 NLT