Tags: China | Prepares | Execute | Christians

China Prepares to Execute Christians

Wednesday, 20 February 2002 12:00 AM

Gong Shengliang (m), aged 46 Li Ying (f), aged 36 Xu Fuming (m) Hu Yong (m) Gong Bangkun (m)

Zhang Hongjuan (f), aged 20 Li Tongjin (also known as "Immanuel”) (f) Yang Tongni (also known as "Ni”)(f)

The first five people listed above have been sentenced to death by the Jingmen City Intermediate People’s Court in the central province of Hubei, China.

All five were condemned to death on 29 December 2001 in connection with their membership of an unofficial Christian organisation, the "Huanan (South China) Church”. They were tried with 12 others who were sentenced to between two years and life imprisonment.

All 17 were arrested in April 2001 and accused of leading or being members of a ‘heretical religious organisation’ called the "Huanan Church” ("South China Church”).

Their trial began on 18 December 2001. Gong Shengliang and and his niece, Li Ying were convicted of "using a heretical organisation to undermine the implementation of the law” and "intentional assault”.

This latter charge referred to allegations that since 1991 the group had caused serious injuries to four persons and slight injuries to 10 others while "putting the church in order”.

Gong and Li, as leaders of the church, were held responsible for the alleged injuries. Gong Shengliang was also charged with "rape”, a charge often brought by the Chinese authorities against detained leaders of banned religious groups.

The defendants have all reportedly denied their guilt and have appealed against the sentences to the Hubei Provincial High People’s Court. Successful appeals are rare in China and execution can take place hours after the rejection of an appeal.

Gong Bangkun's sentence is suspended for two years. This means that he will only be executed if he "intentionally commits crimes” during that period.

According to official Chinese sources, such prisoners generally have their sentences commuted at the end of the suspension period, usually to life imprisonment. Amnesty International is concerned that the five men sentenced to death may have been tortured to force them to confess.

The authorities have banned the "Huanan Church” as a "heretical organisation”. Since May 2001, dozens of alleged members of the church have been arrested in Hubei province, and some have allegedly been tortured in police custody.

Among those who claim they were tortured by police are three young women, identified as Zhang Hongjuan, Li Tongjin and Yang Tongni, who were reportedly detained on separate occasions between August and October 2001.

In letters to their families, which have recently been made public, they claim that they were tortured during interrogation in an apparent attempt to make them confess to having had sexual relations with Gong Shengliang. Gong Shengliang was sentenced to death on charges reportedly including "rape”.

In her letter, Zhang Hongjuan states that police officers at the Public Security Bureau detention centre in Zhongxiang City, Hubei Province, shackled her hands and feet, ripped open her shirt and beat her on the chest with an electric baton.

Li Tongjin wrote to her family that police officers at the same detention centre shackled her feet and tried to pull off her shirt, before beating her on her chest and legs with an electric baton.

Yang Tongni described how police officers at Jingmen Police School and Jingmen No.1 Detention Centre kicked and beat her, whipped her with a leather belt, cuffed her hands behind her back and wedged books between the handcuffs and her back, and tied her up with rope.

All three claim that others detained with them received similar or harsher treatment.

Yang Tongni and Li Tongjin are reported to be serving three-year terms at Shayang Labour Camp in Hubei Province. The current whereabouts of Zhang Hongjuan are not known.

Twenty-eight relatives of Li Ying and Xu Fuming have publicly appealed to the Chinese authorities to review the case, pointing out that the secrecy which surrounded all the judicial proceedings was a violation of both Chinese law and international human rights standards.

The relatives complain that the authorities did not tell them about the prosecution and trial. The appeal continues: "Even at this very moment we still don't know the whereabouts of our loved ones, how their life is, whether they are still healthy, even whether they are still alive or what awaits them eventually”.

BACKGROUND INFORMATION

China maintains the death penalty for a large number of offences, including non-violent crimes and economic crimes such as tax, financial fraud and counterfeiting.

Execution is by shooting or lethal injection. The death penalty is used extensively, arbitrarily, and frequently as a result of political interference. It is particularly used during periodic "Strike Hard” anti-crime campaigns, when defendants may be sentenced to death for crimes which at other times are punished by imprisonment.

There is currently a "Strike Hard" anti-crime campaign, which initially targeted violent organised crime, but this has been expanded to include a wide range of other crimes.

Amnesty International is concerned that this campaign, which stresses "quick arrest, quick trial and quick results", may influence the proceedings and outcome of criminal trials. Amnesty International has recorded at least 2,960 death sentences and 1,781 executions in China in the 3 months following the start of the campaign from April to June 2001.

These figures, taken from a limited number of sources, show that more people were executed in China between April and June 2001 than in the rest of the world for the last three years.

It is reported that the "Huanan Church” has over 50,000 members and was classified by the authorities as a "heretical organisation” (or "cult”) in April 2001. The authorities have also classified many other Christian church groups and Qi Gong groups as ‘heretical organisations’, which are banned under the Chinese Criminal Law.

The government is currently waging a fierce and unprecedented crackdown on the ‘Falungong’ movement which was also classified as a "heretical organisation” in 1999. Amnesty International has monitored scores of cases of torture and death in custody of Falungong followers.

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Gong Shengliang (m), aged 46 Li Ying (f), aged 36 Xu Fuming (m) Hu Yong (m) Gong Bangkun (m) Zhang Hongjuan (f), aged 20 Li Tongjin (also known as Immanuel") (f) Yang Tongni (also known as Ni")(f) The first five people listed above have been sentenced to...
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2002-00-20
Wednesday, 20 February 2002 12:00 AM
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