China Jails Underground Church Head
China Jails Underground Church Head

HONG KONG – A court in China's Henan province has jailed the head of one of the country's largest underground Christian churches for seven and a half years, Hong Kong's RTHK radio reported on Saturday.

Quoting the China Aid Association, a U.S.-based group which monitors religious freedom in China, RTHK said Zhang Rongliang had been convicted of fraudulently attaining a passport and crossing a border illegally. Association officials were not immediately available for comment.

Zhang had been arrested several times before, serving a total of 12 years in prison for organising church activities, according to international human rights group Amnesty International. Amnesty said he had been tortured in jail,

Aged about 55, Zhang heads the China for Christ Church, one of the country's biggest “house church” networks. Many Chinese Christians worship in private homes rather than in the official churches supervised by state-backed religious bodies.

Chinese police sometimes harass and detain members of the underground churches. In June, the U.S. House of Representatives approved resolutions accusing China of rising levels of religious persecution. Beijing called the accusations groundless.

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