11/19/2008, 00.00
CHINA
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Protestant clergyman sentenced to one year of forced labour

The religious leader is charged with heading an “evil cult”. The move is just another step in a campaign to “normalise” underground Protestant communities.
Beijing (AsiaNews/CAA) – Zhu Baoguo, a pastor in a house church in Henan, was sentenced to a year of “re-education through labour” for being an “evil cult” leader.

The US-based China Aid Association (CAA) said that the clergyman was arrested on 12 October together with four other leaders of his community as they gathered in Dushu village, near the city of Nanyang.

Religious communities that are not registered with the Religious Affairs Bureau are not allowed to meet under Chinese law and participants in illegal meetings can be prosecuted.

Reverend Zhu received 15 days of administrative detention, while the other four leaders were sentenced to five days.

On 30 October, two days after he was released from administrative detention at the Neixiang County Detention Centre, Reverend Zhu was sentenced to one year of re-education-through- labour and sent to a camp.

The notion of re-education through labour’ or láojiào entails forced labour and political re-education sessions designed to modify prisoners’ outlook towards the Chinese Communist Party and its religious policy. Under the law police have the right to arrest and detain anyone without trial for up to three years.

According to the CAA the clergyman was accused of being the leader of an “evil cult” since the religious experience the latter provided was deemed dangerous for society and those who took part in it.

Beginning last year the authorities have launched a campaign against underground Protestant communities, whose numbers exceed 50 million members according to conservative estimates.

The ultimate goal of this campaign is to incorporate these communities into the state-controlled Three Autonomies Movement or simply suppress them (see Secret party document wants to “normalise” Chinese Protestants).

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