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House Church Leader's Sentence Wrongfully Prolonged

February 3, 2006


Human Rights in China (HRIC) has learned that the health of house church leader Liu Fenggang is deteriorating in prison due to lack of treatment for his heart condition. In addition, it appears that another imprisoned house church leader, Xu Yonghai, has been held well beyond his proper release date because of authorities’ misuse of residential surveillance procedures.

Xu Yonghai, who was sentenced to two years in prison in the same case as Liu Fenggang, was released recently and has returned to his home in Beijing. However, sources quote Xu as saying that he was imprisoned in Hangzhou for more than 80 days longer than he should have been.

According to information received by HRIC, Xu Yonghai was detained around 8:00 a.m. on November 9, 2003, after finishing his night shift at the Beijing Hospital where he worked. Several days later, Xu was transferred to a detention center in the Xiaoshan district of Hangzhou.

Xu and Liu finally went to trial May 14, 2004 on charges of gathering and providing state secrets to overseas organizations. However, their lawyer pointed out that the State Secrets Bureau certificate produced as evidence by the procuratorate had not been signed, and therefore was invalid. As a result, the court placed Liu and Xu under “residential surveillance” starting on May 14. Liu was also put under residential surveillance at this time.

At that point, Xu says, he was transferred to a small hostel in the outskirts of Hangzhou, where he was kept under watch around the clock by four guards and completely deprived of his freedom of movement. Xu told HRIC’s source that his confinement under residential surveillance was even worse than at the detention center. His guards chatted and watched television day and night, making it impossible for him to get any rest, and he was not allowed to take so much as a step outside his room. Xu wrote three letters to the Hangzhou Intermediate People’s Court requesting transfer back to the detention center, but his request was ignored. HRIC does not have detailed information on the circumstances of Liu Fenggang’s residential surveillance.

Xu and Liu finally went to trial again on August 6, 2004, but the court took no account of the invalid State Secrets Bureau certificate, and sentenced Liu to three years in prison and Xu to two years, as well as imposing a one-year prison sentence on another Christian, Zhang Shenqi. In addition, the court did not include the period Xu and Liu had spent under residential surveillance as time served, with the result that the period from May 14 until August 6 was effectively added to their sentences. (The judgment is appended to the Chinese version of this press release.)

Residential surveillance is considered a form of non-custodial detention under Chinese law, but the Supreme People’s Court has determined that periods of pre-trial detention that completely deprive a defendant of his freedom of movement should be subtracted from the prison term in calculating the release date. Xu’s complete deprivation of liberty under residential surveillance was not taken into account in this way, and as a result, his term of imprisonment was effectively lengthened by nearly three months. Xu and Liu appealed their sentences on this basis, but up to the present time they have received no response.

Liu Fenggang, Xu Yonghai and Zhang Shengqi were detained and imprisoned after Liu published reports on persecution of Christian house churches in overseas publications. Xu and Zhang were involved in funding Liu’s investigations and transmitting the articles overseas. In May 2005, upon a review of a case submission made by HRIC, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention determined Liu Fenggang’s detention to be arbitrary and called for his immediate and unconditional release.

HRIC protests the abuse of process that has effectively lengthened the incarceration of Xu Yonghai. These procedural defects include the abuse of the residential surveillance process and the admission of an unsigned State Secrets Bureau certificate into evidence.

HRIC also calls for Liu Fenggang to be released immediately on medical parole and granted physical examination and treatment by qualified personnel in accordance with international human rights standards on the minimum treatment of prisoners.

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