House church leader arrested in China

By December 13, 2004

China (MNN/VOM) — One of the most prominent Chinese House Church leaders, Pastor Zhang Rongliang, was arrested on December 1, 2004.

According to Voice of the Martyrs, 53-year-old Pastor Zhang was arrested in a rented apartment at Xuzhai village, Zhengzhou city, Henan province at about 1 p.m. Zhang’s wife and children were not at home when the arrest occurred; they were able to escape and are now in hiding. The apartment was searched and all Pastor Zhang’s Christian DVDs, materials and photos revealing relationships with foreigners and foreign agencies were confiscated.

According to reliable sources, on the evening of December 1, Xuzhai village was surrounded by police and every house was searched. It is believed that pastor Zhang’s wife and children were the targets of the search.

Mr. Gao Shunping, who helped pastor Zhang get an ID so that he could travel, also disappeared. At least three house churches at Fangcheng area were raided last week after Zhang’s arrest, including the house of Ms. Xiao Min’s parents. Xiao Min has been sought by the authorities because of her prolific writing of Chinese worship songs known as “Canaan Hymns.”

There has been no communication with Pastor Zhang since his arrest, but it is believed that he is in custody in the Zheng Zhou area of Henan Province. Zhang is the leader of the Fangcheng Mother Church, Henan and the leader of the China for Christ Church, which is one of the largest house church networks in China, estimated to have more than 10 million members.

Pastor Zhang has already spent twelve years in prison for his faith during five separate detentions since his secret baptism in 1969. He experienced harsh torture, including electric shocks, during his prison terms.

His arrest comes in the midst of a serious crackdown on China’s house churches. In addition to a generally worsening situation and increased arrests, it is reported that there is now a disinformation campaign. It is believed that the Chinese government purposely provided misleading and untrue information to news outlets by linking the house church with a criminal group disguised as religion called Eastern Lightning.

“This is yet another example of how the Chinese government treats Christians,” said Todd Nettleton, Director of News Services for The Voice of the Martyrs. “We are very concerned for our Christian brother, Pastor Zhang, who has suffered from diabetes for five years.”

VOM sources fear that Zhang could be in for harsh treatment by police. As the leader of a large house-church network, he could be classified as an evil cult leader. Police are also seeking Zhang’s two sons, and could put pressure on him to give information about them and about the activities of other church leaders.

“Christians in China love their country; they pray for their government leaders,” said Nettleton. “They simply ask for the right to worship God as they see fit. We urge Christians around the world to pray for Pastor Zhang and other Christians in China, and to protest to the Chinese government.”

Letters of protest can be sent to the Chinese Embassy in Washington DC at the following address: Ambassador Yang Jiechi, Embassy of the People’s Republic of China, 2300 Connecticut Ave NW, Washington DC 20008 Tel:(202) 328-2500 Fax:(202) 588-0032 Director of Religious Affairs: (202) 328-2512

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