By BosNewsLife Asia Service
The pastor will hear Friday, September 26, if he will have to continue his forced labor sentence in Shandong Province.
BEJING, CHINA (BosNewsLife) -- A closed-door trial in China will decide this week whether evangelical Pastor Zhang Zhongxin must continue serving a two-year forced labor sentence for his activities related to evangelism and training Christian missionaries, an advocacy group said Wednesday, September 24.
The US-based China Aid Association (CAA) told BosNewsLife that the court case will be held Friday, September 26, at the labor camp in Shandong Province where he began serving his two-year "reeducation-through-labor" sentence in July this year. The trial was to decide "whether this sentence, imposed upon Zhang on July 6 of this year, was an appropriate punishment," CAA added in a statement.
Pastor Zhangâ€™s attorneys and relatives have been banned from meeting with him or reviewing his files, apparently because authorities suspect the pastor of "endangering state security." It was difficult to reach Chinese officials for comment.
A court in the city of Jining City in Shandong sentenced the pastor on somewhat unclear charges of â€œcult participation in the whole scope of the Church," apparently linked to his involvement in evangelism and involvement in mission education.
"If the court finds Zhang innocent of the crimes against him, the reeducation sentence will be repealed," CAA explained. "However, if the court rules in favor of the sentencing, Zhang will remain in the labor camp until 2010."
Christian defense attorneys Li Fangping and Zhang Jianfeng reportedly continued to try to meet with Pastor Zhang, despite objections from authorities. Following the Beijing Olympics, China has come under increased international pressure to show more leniency towards religious and political prisoners.
The Chinese government has said that Christians are allowed to worship within government-backed denominations and policies. However evangelism, missionary work and Christian education for children is banned or discouraged by authorities, while 'underground' house churches have been raided by Chinese security forces.