China “Tortures” Top Religious Leaders, Rights Watchers Claim
Seventeen top leaders of a major religious group in China faced an uncertain future Monday, March 6, after their four-day trial ended amid reports they were tortured and sexually abused by Communist authorities seeking confessions.
Some of the accused, who are members of the 500,000-strong Three Grades of Servants group, are expected to receive the death penalty on what human rights watchers call “trumped up” charges.
Reverend Bob Fu, president of religious rights group China Aid Association (CAA) and a former House Church pastor in Beijing , told BosNewsLife there were doubts over the fairness of the trial at
He said main leader Xu Wenku along with 16 fellow officials are charged of having murdered 20 leaders from a group called Eastern Lightning, which house churches regard as a violent coercive criminal group.
Xu is reportedly also accused of involvement in a 32 million Yuan (about $4 million) fraud scandal. He served over 10 years in labor camps and prisons since 1976 primarily for “illegal evangelizing activities,” according to a prosecution paper CAA claimed to have obtained.
CAA investigators have raised doubts about the allegations. His daughter, Xu Baiyin who attended the hearing, said in a statement that her father revoked his “so-called confession” as soon as the court finished reading the prosecutors interrogation records.
“Xu told the court that those listed confessions were signed under enormous torture when he would “rather die than live”. He told the court how inhumanly he was tortured by the interrogators…To force him to admit that he ordered fellow leaders to murder members from Eastern Lightning, he was hung in the air for five hours with sleep deprivation for five days and nights,” CAA told BosNewsLife.
In addition Xu reportedly claimed interrogators tied his fingers, toes and genitals with wire connected to electricity. “Mr. Li Maoxing [another defendant] showed his wounded fingers to the court and said the torture experts used a new way of torture by making him hang in the air with a very thick blanket,” according to trial records distributed by CAA. They allegedly were “electrifying him after he got extremely wet.”
While many of the mainstream Chinese House churches reportedly view Xu’s group as doctrinally cultic, it has apparently Christian roots. In his closing remarks during the trial, Xu urged the court and the public “to believe in Jesus otherwise they will one day face eternal judgments in heaven,” CAA said. He reportedly also urged his children to continue to “follow Christ without fears.”
CAA said it had appealed to the international community “to continue to urge the Chinese government to make sure the verdict will be based upon true evidence.” It is believed that the verdict could be delivered soon. The Chinese government has denied human rights abuses and says it only cracks down on dangerous sects.