U.N. Petition Submitted for Jailed Ailing Church Leader
Midland, Texas — ChinaAid learned that an anonymous party has submitted a petition on behalf of Pastor Gong Shengliang to the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention. Meanwhile, pastor Gong's family members and legal representatives filed an appeal for medical parole to the Chinese prison due to pastor Gong's poor health. (Read the full text at www.ChinaAid.org)
Pastor Gong is an evangelical Christian pastor and founder of the South China Church imprisoned since 2001 for his religious beliefs and leadership at South China Church. The petition is dated March 31, 2006 and cites violations of Article 18 of both the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), which guarantees and protects religious freedom. Though not a signatory or party to the ICCPR, China is a member of the United Nations and thus is bound to uphold the principles set forth in the UDHR. China's own laws protect religious freedom. Article 36 of the Chinese Constitution states that “Citizens of the People's Republic of China enjoy freedom of religious belief.” The petition presents convicting evidence that China fails to respect its own guarantee.
Pastor Gong was convicted of criminal charges based on evidence obtained through torture and after a trial that lacked even the most rudimentary elements of due process. China continues to persecute and imprison Pastor Gong as a way of threatening and deterring the mission of his church, which China views as a threat to the monopoly of the state sponsored church. In persecuting Pastor Gong, Chinese officials cited the South China Church's publication of religious materials and members' belief in Christianity. In 2002, the Jingmen Municipal Intermediate Court of Hubei Province in southern China sentenced Pastor Gong to death for assault, rape, and for organizing a cult. Foreign governments and international news organizations denounced the verdict, which was later commuted to life in prison. Pastor Gong is currently in very poor health and is receiving little to no medical attention in prison.
The petition carries detailed accounts of the Chinese government's torture of Pastor Gong and other members of the South China Church, including sexual abuse, use of electrical rods to administer shocks, burning of skin, pulling of hair, torture with handcuffs and shackles, denial of basic necessities, physical beatings, invasive medical procedures, and death threats. The petition also cites and provides nearly twenty statements bearing original signatures of Church members who were tortured into making false accusations against Pastor Gong. Notably, every woman whom the Chinese government cited as accusing Pastor Gong of rape recanted the accusation, saying that they were made under duress of torture. “We have been calling for justice and fair trial for this case for a long time,” said Rev. Bob Fu, “we urge the international community to continue to press the Chinese government to sincerely honor her pledge for true religious freedom and rule of the law in China.” CAA calls upon President Bush and members of Congress to raise the issue of religious persecution in China when they meet with the Chinese President Hu Jintao on April 20 at Washington DC.