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Chinese Pastor Needs Help

7/6/07 China (ANS) — Open Doors USA is urging Christians to advocate on behalf of prominent Chinese house church pastor Zhang Rongliang

Zhang, who was arrested December 1, 2004, is currently serving a seven-and-a-half year prison term on charges of obtaining illegal travel documents and illegal border crossings. Due to consistent refusal of the Chinese government to issue documentation to top leaders in the Chinese house church networks, Zhang obtained a falsified passport in order to attend mission conferences abroad.

Of primary concern is Zhang’s health as he suffers from five chronic conditions, including severe diabetes and high blood pressure. In early 2006, while in pretrial detention, Zhang’s condition deteriorated, requiring authorities to transfer him to a hospital for emergency care. According to Chinese law, he is qualified to ask for medical parole based on his health problems, according to Compass Direct News.

Prior to his sentencing on July 4, 2006, Zhang was detained for over a year. During this time, an intermediate court in Zhongmu City sent his case back to a lower court, stating that there was “insufficient evidence and ambiguous facts.” Additionally, Zhang has spent more than 12 years in prison on account of his religious convictions. In light of these aggravating factors, Zhang’s lengthy sentence presents an even greater miscarriage of justice.

Zhang’s wife, Chen Hongxian, has appealed to human rights groups around the world to advocate for her husband and for the international Christianity community to keep him in prayer, according to Compass Direct. Prison conditions are harsh and unhealthy. Zhang and about 20 others are crammed into a 100-square-foot cell with no beds or toilets. Authorities have also targeted Chen’s and Zhang’s two sons, who both worked in ministry. One was a pastor and the other was a lay leader, but since their father’s arrest, they have been pursued by the police and have been forced to go into hiding.

As China seeks to bolster its international image prior to the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing , U.S. leaders should be urged to pursue policies that will uphold commitment to internationally recognized standards on human rights and religious freedom as a key priority in improving U.S.-China bilateral relations.

Open Doors USA Advocacy Coordinator Lindsay Vessey says: “We are deeply concerned about Pastor Zhang’s failing health. We suspect he is not getting proper medical attention as last year one witness reportedly saw Zhang chained and handcuffed to a hospital bed when he was receiving treatment. This is a critical opportunity for the Chinese government to promote commitment to human rights and religious freedom by releasing Zhang on medical parole.”

Open Doors USA and International Christian Concern have launched a campaign urging U.S. Representatives to sign a letter sponsored by Congressman Trent Franks (R-AZ) addressed to President Bush. The letter asks President Bush to request the release of Zhang on medical parole during his next meeting with Chinese President Hu Jintao.

Open Doors is urging Christians to email their U.S. Representative via our Website; asking them to sign the letter sponsored by Franks. After collecting signatures from other representatives, Frank’s office will send the letter to President Bush.