01/16/2014, 00.00
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Henan authorities ready to put Christian pastor Zhang on trial

The pastor led the official community in Nanle County. He was arrested in November 2013 after a long battle to defend the church property expropriated by the government. He will be formally charged with "fraud" and "disturbing public order" . Hundreds of faithful from all over the country spent Christmas with the community to show their support.

Beijing ( AsiaNews) - Authorities in the central province of Henan have formalized charged of " fraud " and " disturbing public order" against the Protestant Christian pastor Zhang Shaojie , arrested in November 2013 after a fierce battle to defend his congregation's property against government expropriation. His lawyers , Liu Weiguo and Xia Jun, confirm that the trial will take place " soon ."

Zhang is part of the Three-Self Movement , the "official" Protestant Church built by Mao Zedong in the early years of his government. In China only registered religious groups are allowed. But there are more unofficial Protestant Christians (about 80 million) than members of the Three-Self Movement (about 20 million). Fearing that the situation may get out of hand, for almost five years there has been a campaign to eliminate the underground communities or merge them into the official community.

Pastor Zhang leads the community in the county of Nanle. Beyond the formal charges the reason for his arrest is not clear: on the one hand there is his refusal to surrender Church property to the authorities, on the other hand some sources speak of a "maneuver" to replace him as leader of the official Christian community in the area. In any case, the cleric has denied having done anything wrong .

At Christmas, hundreds of Protestant Christians from Shenzhen , Shanghai , Jiangsu , Hebei , Shandong and Beijing went to Nanle to express their support for the local community and spend the holidays there . They were forced to celebrate Christmas service outside, since the church premises are guarded by security officials . Immediately after the service, they were attacked by "unknown assailants" who beat them.

A faithful in the area, anonymous for security reason, says: "It seems clear that the government has already prepared some 'evidence' to prove that our pastor is guilty. , But he is not. The authorities behavior is really terrible, scandalous towards us all".


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