China (MNN) — Open Doors is asking Christians to be advocates for a Chinese house church pastor. He is currently in jail, and his health is failing.
Zhang Rongliang was arrested in December of 2004 and is currently serving a seven and a half year prison sentence. However, his health has begun to deteriorate because of several medical conditions.
"He has five chronic health conditions, including high blood pressure, severe diabetes, and arthritis," said Lindsay Vessey of Open Doors. The situation in the Chinese
prisons is not helping his health since there are 20 people crammed in a 100 square-foot room with no beds or toilets.
This is not Rongliang's first arrest. He has been in prison five times for a total
of 12 years. This sentence is unusually harsh.
The Chinese government routinely deny travel documents to house church leaders. This time he was arrested because he obtained illegal documents to be able to leave the country
and go to mission conferences. Vessey says, "It's a clear case of the Chinese government trying to make it appear like he's a criminal while they've really have just been discriminating against him because he's a house church pastor.
While imprisoned, however, Rongliang has not stopped his ministry. Vessey said, "He's led 40-50 people to the Lord in his cell and in the neighboring cells, which is really incredible. And he's also baptized some of the jailers where he's been imprisoned."
His sons, who are in ministry, have been targeted as well. They are now in hiding, leaving
Rongliang's wife alone. She is only allowed to visit her husband once a month; however, they must shout their entire half-hour conversation so that the prison guards can monitor them.
Open Doors is asking Christians to e-mail their state representatives. Currently there is a letter circulating in the U.S. House of Representatives, addressed to President Bush, that
representatives can sign to help get Rongliang out of prison on medical parole. Bush could then raise Rongliang's case with the Chinese president. "We know that President Bush is very committed to religious freedom in China," said Vessey.