25 May 2000 (Newsroom) -- Two Chinese Protestant pastors accused of organizing an unauthorized Christian meeting are being held in labor camps near Beijing, a London-based religious rights group reported Thursday. Wang Li Gong, 34, and Yang Jing Fu, 36, are in two separate camps in Tianjing serving administrative sentences of one year, and one and one-half years, respectively, Christian Solidarity Worldwide said.
Human rights groups say that many leaders of unregistered religious groups in China have been given administrative sentences, a provision that allows police to assess labor camp terms of up to three years without a trial.
CSW also reported that 13 Christian leaders in the southeastern province of Guangdong have been sentenced to 15 days in detention. Most of the leaders are associated with evangelist Li Dexian, who has been the target of an eight-month campaign to force him to register his church activity. Last month, during a 15-day detention, Li was tortured and held in chains with his wrists tied to his ankles, keeping his back in a permanently stooped position for five days.
The two pastors serving labor camp terms were arrested on November 23 in the Tianjing area. Police surrounded a gathering of Christians at Wang's home and arrested Yang and 19 others, all from the northern Chinese province of Inner Mongolia. Wang was not at the meeting but was arrested later when he went to the police to inquire about his colleagues.
CSW said that two of the Inner Mongolians were held for 15 days, three for 10 days, and the rest were released within five days of their arrest.
According to a CSW source close to the situation, Wang is being denied sleep, has been tortured frequently, and is forced to engage in physically damaging labor. Wang works long hours hand-sewing soccer balls, which causes bleeding and injury to his hands every day, CSW said.
The London group reported that all but one of the Inner Mongolians were beaten, humiliated, and threatened by police and "had obvious black marks and swellings on their faces and bodies." The Christians were accused of disturbing social order and were fined.
Police accused Wang and Yang of being cult leaders. Chinese President Jiang Zemin declared a "war on cults" at the end of 1998, insisting that they are a threat to national security. The government often uses the term "cult" as a general description of groups that refuse to submit to state restrictions. Jiang's declaration was renewed in a speech marking the 50th anniversary of the Communist Party last October.
Family members were told by police that Wang and Yang had conducted illegal meetings, brought in believers from other provinces, and been in contact with foreigners, which made their crimes more serious than those of the others.
The vast majority of Chinese Protestants -- some say an estimated 75 million -- affiliate with churches that refuse to register with the state. The "underground" Christians, who meet mostly in homes, point out that the communist-controlled government places restrictions on doctrine and practice. Some 15 million Chinese Protestants attend official Three-Self Patriotic churches, which vary greatly around the country in terms of freedom of worship.
Police in Tianjing also conducted extensive searches of the homes of Wang and Yang, CSW reported. They confiscated over 2,000 yuan ($240) in cash, cash machine cards, national stock certificates worth 2,000 yuan, bank deposit books, Bibles, books, tracts, audio and video cassettes, and other personal belongings. Police also confiscated valuable electrical equipment and in many cases gave no receipt for the confiscated goods, CSW said.
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