Details of Torture, Murder of Christians by Police

WASHINGTON, D.C. (EP) - A letter from members of an underground Chinese Christian church reveals graphic details and new information about the Chinese government's crackdown on Pastor Gong Shengliang and his South China Church in central Hubei province.

Pastor Gong was sentenced to death on Dec. 5 on charges of operating an "evil cult" and charges of rape and assault. The month-long period for deciding his appeal was extended Jan. 5 by a Hubei court following sharp international protest, reports Freedom House, an American religious rights organization. The South China Church is known within the Chinese underground Christian community and to churches in the United States.

The letter, dated Dec. 31 was written by two underground Christian women, Li Ailian and Wang Yue. It was smuggled into the U.S. and given to the New York-based Committee for Investigation on Persecution of Religion in China.

Li and Wang report that during efforts to apprehend Pastor Gong and suppress the South China Church, police arrested and severely beat at least 25 Christians, and tortured others with electric prods. Two victims reportedly died from their inflicted wounds.

One of the victims was Yu Zhongju, a young mother from Zhongxiang, who was arrested May 27 in a private house connected with Pastor Gong's congregation. She died in police custody in late July, allegedly as a result of torture. According to her family, police paid them money and warned them not to raise the matter further. There has been no official investigation of the case, Freedom House reports.

The other victim, Gu Xuegui, a Christian man also connected with Pastor Gong's church, disappeared while in police custody in October. Gu was last seen in a prison vehicle and had wounds consistent with previous descriptions of torture practice by Chinese police. His family later received information that he died under severe torture.

The letter also provides details about two women, Li Tongjin and Chi Tongyuan, from Shayang, who were arrested and tortured by police with electric prods, resulting in blisters and burns all over their bodies. The torture was reported to have been used to force them to testify that they had sexual relations with Pastor Gong.

The letter reports numerous other cases from May through December 2001 of brutal police beatings of the congregants. It states Pastor Gong was apprehended by police Aug. 8, and was kicked and beaten by government security forces.

In a separate communiqu? from the underground South China Church, Freedom House obtained the names of 63 men and women of the church who were arrested between May and December 2001 in Hubei, Henan, Hebei and Sichuan provinces.

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