Hong Kong (AsiaNews/SCMP) "I will keep working for the Lord", says 46 year-old Protestant activist, Yu Zhudi, who was released after 3 years in prison on charges of secretly distributing copies of bibles in southeast China.
Yu Zhudi was freed on March 7 in Baisha, near Fuqing (Fujian). He is a member of an outlawed evangelical organization called the "Shouters". He was arrested in May 2001 along with two other members of the group, Lin Xifu and Hong Kong businessman, Li Guangqiang, who were accused of smuggling 16,000 bibles from Shenzhen into Fuqing.
"On the surface I am now free, but it's not that simple. I will likely be followed and my phone may be tapped," said Yu Zhudi, who with the two others was convicted of "using a cult to undermine the enforcement of the law".
Yu said that during his prison term "the first three months were very terrifying." He and other prisoners made rattan baskets for 16 hours a day, but kept silent for fear of being punished. "My hands were cut, my whole body was exhausted and my head ached. There was no time to sleep," he said.
His situation got worse when he was assigned to keep watch at night outside a prison cellblock. For lack of rest and bad food his health became seriously compromised. "When I was doing hard labour, we had only one small bucket of water to drink every day, and we ate rice," he said. "On good weeks, we had vegetable soup, but they used bad ingredients. We never had any fish or meat."
Following his release Yu and his family have received several visits from Christian friends and relatives.
"I hope the authorities will realize we are practicing religion legally. I hope they will let Christian groups like ours register as legal organizations. If my jail term can achieve this, it would be worthwhile."
The "Shouters" are one of the fastest growing religious organizations in the country. It is estimated that the organization now totals 500,000 members, who are urged to "shout" their devotion to Christianity. In 1995 the group was outlawed as an "deviant religious organization" or "evil cult"Li Guangqiang and Lin Xifu were convicted to 2 and 3-year prison terms respectively. However they both were released in 2002 on medical parole, thanks to pressure put on by American groups. In addition to their prison sentences the three "Shouters" were fined 150,000 yuan (around 18,000 euro) each. (MR)