The treatment of Chinese Christians--who now outnumber Chinese Communist Party members--must be placed near the top of the agenda when President Bush meets Friday with Chinese President Jiang Zemin.
"At a time when President Bush is talking about terrorism and hoping to secure Beijing's support for military action against Iraq, China-a United Nations Security Council member-is terrorizing many of its Christian citizens," said VOM spokesman Gary Lane.
Among them are the so-called South China Church 17. Though sentences for the SCC church members were reduced by the Jingmen Intermediate Court following a retrial on October 9, new information from a top defendant exposes numerous atrocities committed against the Christians behind bars and the government's ongoing campaign to destroy unregistered churches in China.
"The South China Church 17 only want to practice their faith without government interference. They're being denied basic human rights while in prison," said Lane. "Not only have we received reports they're being denied Bibles, but some have been beaten and tortured into making false statements."
At least one SCC member has died as a result. Twenty-seven year old Zhongyu Yu was arrested and jailed in May 2001 for attending an illegal house meeting. The Voice of the Martyrs has learned that Yu was tortured to death in jail because she refused to give false testimony against SCC's founder, Pastor Gong Shengliang. Law enforcement officials bribed Yu's husband with 60,000 RMB ($8,000) to remain silent about his wife's death.
Details of Zhongyu Yu's death and the torture of other SCC members are revealed in a series of four prison letters written by Pastor Gong last February through April and recently obtained and translated by VOM. In the letters, Gong defends his actions and those of the SCC. He claims Public Security Bureau (PSB) officials have worked diligently to destroy the South China Church over the past decade. Gong says officials have "taken our people away, searched our houses, confiscated our properties, imposed fines and passed sentences on our people. They have caused tremendous material and emotional losses to many families and even the break-up of families." Gong demands due process and a public trial where he could face his accusers in response to charges of rape. "Why isn't there a plantiff or a victim in the rape case?" he asks. "The defendant has requested many times that the victims accuse him in court. Why doesn't the court let the victims appear (in court)?"
In his prison letters, Gong claims officials attempted to obtain false confessions of rape against him from four members of the South China Church 17. Feng Ping Xiang, 32, Xicun Meng, 27, YingPing Li, 28, and Xian Zhi Liu, 31, were re-arrested October 9, only hours after the Jingmen Intermediate Court freed them following a re-trail. They had planned to file a lawsuit against guards and officials who had tortured them repeatedly during their incarceration, but instead were sent away for three years of "re-education through labor." Prior to the re-trail, the four women were sexually molested and repeatedly tortured-including electric shocks to their breasts and genitals-until they signed documents saying that Pastor Gong had raped them. Gong was convicted on rape charges in the second trial and sentenced to life in prison.
"President Bush will be asking President Jiang Zemin to join the United States in making Saddam Hussein accountable for violating U.N. resolutions," said Lane. "We expect our President also to demand accountability from Beijing for violating the human rights of Pastor Gong, the South China Church and other Chinese Christians."
A transcript of Pastor Gong's four prison letters is available to members of the media and the public. A downloadable PDF file is provided in one of the media rooms available to registered members of the www.persecution.com web site. Registration on the site is free.