Another five leaders of the Chinese megachurch whose pastor was recently sentenced to prison have been ordered to be re-educated through labor camps, a U.S. human rights group reported.
Just days after a Chinese court sentenced Pastor Wang Xiaoguang of Linfen Fushan Church in Linfen, northern Shanxi province to three years in prison and handed out three- to seven-year jail sentences to four other church leaders, ChinaAid Association learned that five more church leaders were each sentenced to two years in labor camps.
The sentences were reportedly given arbitrarily by the public security bureau without a proper court trial.
"To arbitrarily send five innocent citizens to labor camps is in direct violation against the international human rights covenants and norms the Chinese government has signed and even ratified," said Bob Fu, president of CAA, in a statement. "This case shows the Chinese government is determined to be on the wrong side of history by clenching its power with suppressing the basic freedom of religion and conscience for Chinese citizens. We call upon the international community to hold these rights abusers accountable."
Among the five Christian leaders is Yang Caizhen, whose husband Pastor Yang Xuan had received a three-year jail sentence by the court on Nov. 25. Yang Caizhen was reportedly severely beaten during interrogation, a witness told the Texas-based rights group. One of her front teeth is said to have been knocked out during the beating. She is reportedly fasting and praying during her detention and in very fragile condition.
CAA learned about the most recent sentences of Fushan church leaders on Nov 30, but it reportedly took effect from Nov. 11 when all the leaders were already detained.
The rights group said it confirmed the reality of the sentences with individual family members of three of the five church leaders. The other two members' sentences were confirmed indirectly by Fushan church leaders.
In the latest sentences, the members were charged with "gathering people to disturb the public order" based on when they organized a 1,000 people prayer rally on Sept. 14 – the day after hundreds of people dressed as security force had raided and demolished 17 church buildings and injured more than 30 believers on the church campus.
The 50,000-member Fushan Church was raided on Sept. 13, by reportedly 400 people. Men tore at the building's foundation with shovels as bulldozers worked to level other buildings on the site. Church members sleeping at the construction site of the new church building were attacked with bricks and other objects, according to CAA. Several members were severely injured and were sent to the emergency room, and some members were unconscious.
The attack is said to be the worst crackdown against a house church in the past decade.
After the attack, Yang Rongli, the wife of the church pastor, was leading a group of church members to Beijing to protest the destruction of the church when she was arrested and detained. Out of the ten church leaders who were given sentences, Yang was given the heaviest sentence of seven years in prison. She is accused of "illegal land occupation" and "assembling a crowd to disrupt public order."
Yang and her husband, Pastor Wang, have led the Fushan Church for more than 30 years. During a break at their trial, they were said to have encouraged their son to stand firm in his faith in Christ despite the persecution.
ChinaAid is urging people to contact authorizes in Linfen as well as the Chinese embassy in the United States to urge that the Fushan church prisoners be released.