House church leader frustrated with relentless persecution

An open letter from the president of the Chinese House Church Alliance has revealed the relentless persecution he and his family have endured under the hands of the Chinese Government.

Pastor Zhang Mingxuan, who heads the Chinese House Church Alliance, issued the letter on Monday to the international community out of frustration over being driven from house to house by officials with no response from the central government or the judiciary system to his appeal for justice.

Zhang, who converted to Christianity in 1986, is used to persecution after having been stalked, arrested, beaten and imprisoned 12 times for his activities in the house church movement.

But the latest incidents have been more intense and frequent, forcing the house church leader to write two open letters to President Hu Jintao and a third open letter to the international community for help after receiving no response from the government.

As detailed in his letter, high-level Chinese officials visited an orphanage - which is supported by the house church alliance - last October after which authorities forced the foreigners teaching the children to leave, drove away the students, cut off the power supply to the building, and began to monitor Zhang's movement more closely. The orphanage was forced to relocate after the energy company refused to return electricity to the building.

In a period of a little over a month, Zhang moved six times.

"I had to appeal to the leaders of Sanhe City," Zhang said. "However, instead of resuming the power supply, they threatened us even further. We then sued the Bureau of Electricity Services in the name of civilian rights, but the justices of the court would not accept our case. They forced the landlord to kick us out. On Christmas Day, they drove the orphans out of the school.

"In all helplessness, I wrote two open letters to President Hu Jintao. While the letters did not produce any result, they all the more persecuted the orphans and the church and they even forced two of my sons to move. On November 6, 2007, the orphanage was moved to a residential compound in Beijing. However, on the next day, the police officers from Tongzhou District of Beijing tried to force the landlord to drive us out."

More evictions followed as the Public Security Bureau (PSB) tried to "isolate" the house church leader, Bob Fu, president of the China Aid Association (CAA), told The Christian Post.

According to Fu, the intensified campaign against Zhang is "absolutely" related to the Beijing Olympics and the government's efforts to crack down on the house church movement. Fu said the government's main goal is to destroy the house church network and isolate Zhang who is the leader of the underground church.

As noted by many other human rights group, China has engaged in a softer crackdown on churches by preferring to target house church leaders instead of ordinary Christians to avoid attracting international attention to human rights violations.

In his third letter, Zhang urged the international community to pray for the upcoming Beijing Olympics and to press the Chinese government to practice true religious freedom as it claims in its official laws.

"We pray to God that those brothers and sisters imprisoned for preaching Jesus Christ will be released soon and that God will make leaders in the Chinese government to treat the believers in a correct way and that God will make China a country full of love, justice, freedom and prosperity." Zhang wrote.

On Tuesday, CAA said it just learned that 21 major house church leaders were recently sent to labour camp for re-education. They were all detained on December 7, 2007, during a massive arrest at a leadership training gathering with some 249 leaders in Shandong province.

The 21 senior church leaders were sentenced from one year and three months to three years in the labor camp, according to CAA. They were accused of being members of an "evil cult" by the PSB. Among the 21 sentenced, 17 are men and four are women.

Open Doors, a Christian persecution watchdog group, has organised a prayer campaign for persecuted Christians in China centred on the Beijing Olympics. Participants will pray for persecuted Christians in China and for a spiritual revival in the country.

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