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China: Open To Trade But Not To Liberty

May 3, 2006

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CHINA: OPEN TO TRADE BUT NOT TO LIBERTY
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While the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is opening China up
economically to become wealthy and powerful, it keeps control by
suppressing everything 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.

PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY THAT:

* 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

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SUMMARY TO USE IN BULLETINS UNABLE TO RUN THE WHOLE ARTICLE:
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CHINA: OPEN TO TRADE BUT NOT TO LIBERTY

While the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is opening China up
economically to become wealthy and powerful, it keeps control by
suppressing everything that could generate political
dissatisfaction. Persecution of the Protestant house-church
movement has intensified. Pastors, evangelists and house-church
believers are harassed and beaten by security police, tortured and
imprisoned in jails or in labour camps where they are forced into
slave labour producing \'Made in China\' goods for export. Pastors
Gong Shengliang (51) and Zhang Rongliang (55) are long-imprisoned
house-church leaders whose failing health is life-threatening.
Zhang\'s trial is continuing whilst Gong, with a life sentence, is
the subject of an appeal to the UN Working Group on Arbitrary
Detention and an appeal for medical parole. Please pray for justice
and reform leading to liberty.

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* INDIA UPDATE * Compass Direct reports: The Rev Dr Samuel Thomas,
president of the Emmanuel Mission International, was released from
the Kota Central Jail on 2 May after the Rajasthan High Court
granted him interim bail for three months. Dr Thomas will re-appear
in Rajasthan High Court on 1 August.

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The WEA Religious Liberty Commission sponsors this
RL Prayer List to help individuals and groups pray
specifically and regularly for religious liberty
issues, and in particular to uphold the Church
where it is suffering persecution.

RL Prayer is moderated by Ron Clough, a commissioner
of the WEA RLC and convenor of the Australian EA RLC.
Elizabeth Kendal researched and authored this message.