After Zhang Chunlei, a pastor of a Christian house church in the capital of Guizhou province, was illegally detained last month on fraud allegations, his wife was subpoenaed and held in handcuffs and shackles by police for 24 hours on April 21.
A rights lawyer revealed to The Epoch Times that he believed the Chinese authorities in Guiyang City are working to build a trumped-up fraud case against Zhang.
According to Chinese rights lawyer Sui Muqing, Pastor Zhang’s wife Yang Aiqing was taken away by police around noon time, along with Zhang’s son and younger brother.
Later that afternoon, Zhang’s son and brother were released, while Yang was only released after being detained for 24 hours.
Sui and other human rights lawyers who are concerned about the case took personal risks to pay Yang a visit on April 24.
Sui learned from Yang that she was handcuffed and fettered during the 24-hour detention at the police station and interrogated for several hours.
“She was given a criminal summons on the charge of fraud but the questions during the [police] interrogation were all about spiritual beliefs and church operations. There were no questions about fraud at all, and in fact, it was something that was not mentioned at all,” Sui told The Epoch Times of Yang’s testimony.
He also said, “Yang was handcuffed and fettered. This is very bad, because her situation does not constitute a crime. Even if it constitutes a crime, it is not necessary. She is a delicate woman and not a dangerous criminal. Generally speaking, handcuffs and shackles are for dangerous criminals and those who refuse to be summoned. It is an act of police abusing their power.”
On March 16, Zhang, local Christian believers, and several Christians visiting from other regions were praying and studying their scripture in a room at the Wenzhou Hotel rented by the church. They were raided by police.
Three local Christians—Chen Jianguo, Li Jinzhi, and Li Lin—and 10 visiting Christians were taken to the Yan’an Middle Road Police Station, NGO Christian Solidarity Worldwide reported.
Later in the afternoon, Zhang went to the police station to enquire about the raid. He was brutally pushed to the ground and detained. He was then kept under “administrative detention” for 11 days, which then extended to criminal detention, Christianity Daily reported.
Sui said that after charging Zhang with fraud, the authorities are preparing to charge the entire house church as a “fraud group” and label the church’s donations a “fraud project.” This is really unreasonable and very absurd. It is a common practice in the world for church elders and staff to obtain some living allowances from the donations, Sui said.
“They definitely have the intention to make the house church a fraud group so that they will have a big case, and be more likely to receive awards and credits for the crack down. This is also what some higher-level officials want,” he said.
Sui is not optimistic about Zhang’s chances for freedom. “They dare to slap such a ridiculous crime charge on the pastor, which means they are treating it as a big [political] case, daring to defy the law openly. So, it’s not looking good for Zhang,” he told The Epoch Times.
Persecution of Chinese Faithful
For years, China has topped the religious freedom offenders’ lists published by U.S. government and human rights watchdog organizations for persecuting Tibetans, Buddhists, Christians, Falun Gong practitioners, Uyghurs, and human rights defenders.
In 2020, China earned an overall score of 9 out of 100 points in the Freedom House report—a D.C.-based human rights watchdog group, landing a spot in the lowest group of 195 countries. The report said people living in China under the communist regime were “Not Free,” giving the regime a score of 0 for religious freedom.
Gu Xiaohua contributed to this report.