Pastor Zhang Rongliang

A prominent Chinese house movement leader, Pastor Zhang Rongliang, has been sentenced to seven-and-a- half years in prison.

According to China Aid Association, the July 4 verdict was issued by Zhongmu County People’s Court, though CAA reported that neither Zhang’s wife nor other members of his immediate family received a formal notification. Zhang was arrested Dec. 1, 2004.

The China Aid Association was told by one of its sources that Zhang, 55, was arrested at Xuzhai village, Zhengzhou city, Henan province in a rented apartment. The apartment was searched and all of Zhang’s Christian DVDs, materials and photos revealing relationships with foreigners and foreign agencies were confiscated.

Zhang’s wife and their two sons have been deeply concerned for his welfare and safety, especially as he has suffered from serious diabetes for seven years. His disease was so serious that he was admitted to the Xinmi City People’s Hospital while at his detention center from Dec. 19, 2005, until Jan. 23, 2006, for emergency treatment. He was seen handcuffed and chained to his hospital bed while there.

The popular Christian pastor was charged with “attaining a passport through cheating” and with “illegal border crossing” for his international traveling including to the U.S., Australia, Egypt and Singapore for world mission conferences.

Zhang is the leader of the Fangcheng Mother Church, Henan, and the leader of the China for Christ Church, which is one of the largest house-church networks estimated to have more than 10 million members. He has been well known by the international community, CAA stated, as one of the house-church patriarchs.

He is a co-author of the book “House Churches of China’s Confession of Faith and Declaration” in 1999. He has been featured in a number of international articles and books, including “Jesus in Beijing” (2003) by former Time magazine writer David Aikman, Newsweek (May 12, 2004), Charisma and Christianity Today. Last year, the European Parliament passed a resolution demanding Zhang’s release.

Zhang has been wanted for many years since his last imprisonment in August 1999. He has already spent 12 years in prison for his faith since his secret baptism in 1969 during five separate detentions. CAA reported that he has experienced extreme torture, including electric shocks, during his prison terms.

Bob Fu, who is the president of China Aid and personally knows Zhang and his family, said in a news release: “We are deeply disappointed for this extraordinary harsh verdict given the fact that the Chinese authorities often deny passports and other travel documents to well-known religious leaders like Pastor Zhang.”

He added, “This is yet another case showing the Chinese government’s new tactic of religious persecution in the name of criminal charges.”

Editor’s note: Those wanting to assist Pastor Zhang can contact: Embassy of the People’s Republic of China, 2300 Connecticut Ave NW., Washington, D.C. 20008. Tel: (202) 328-2500, Fax: (202) 588-0032, or the director of religious affairs: (202) 328-2512.

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