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Christian Prisoner Reported Dangerously Ill

June 10, 2003

For immediate release

Friends and relatives of Christian dissident Gong Shengliang have appealed for help from the international community on reports that Gong is near death as a result of abusive treatment in prison.

Human Rights in China (HRIC) has received a copy of an open letter signed by 34 friends and family members of Gong Shengliang, a leader of the banned South China Church, who has been in prison since his arrest in August 2001 with 15 other church members. The open letter (appended in full to the Chinese press release) quotes sources saying that Gong is passing blood, has lost his hearing and is unable to leave his bed. According to the open letter, Gong has been beaten for professing his faith, for refusing to admit guilt and for requesting an appeal for his verdict to be overturned.

Gong and four other members of the Hubei-based South China Church, Li Ying, Xu Fuming, Hu Yong and Gong Bangkun, were condemned to death on December 29, 2001 on charges of “using a cult to undermine implementation of the law” and “intentional assault.” Gong was also charged with rape. Eventually the cult charges were dropped, and the death sentences were commuted to life in prison for Gong Shengliang, Xu and Hu, and to 15 years for Li and Gong Bangkun. Four of the prosecution’s witnesses were subsequently sent to reeducation through labor after they publicly charged the authorities with torturing them into signing statements accusing the church leaders of assault.

Sources say that Gong Shengliang was transferred to Jingzhou Prison at the end of last year, since which he has been subjected to daily brainwashing sessions and close supervision of his every action. The open letter calls for the government to carry out an immediate inquiry into the alleged abuse of Gong, for the courts to accept Gong’s request to appeal his verdict, and for Gong to receive appropriate medical treatment for his injuries.

HRIC strongly deplores the use of torture and other inhumane treatment of prisoners, and supports the demands in the open letter. “We are well aware, from our own sources, of the persecution Chinese authorities mete out to the South China Church and other underground churches,” said HRIC president Liu Qing. “These official actions directly contradict China’s claims of respecting freedom of religion, as well as contravening China’s obligations as a signatory to international human rights convenants.”

For more information, contact:
Stacy Mosher (English) 212-268-9074
Liu Qing (Chinese) 212-239-4495