Additional information has emerged about the arrest of 71 believers in Henan’s Shangqiu city.
Earlier in August, Bitter Winter reported about the arrest of 71 Christians from a house church in Henan. We have received information that one of them was tortured and ten were heavily fined.
In the morning of May 17, 2017, while over 70 Christians from a house church in Shangqiu city of Henan were holding a gathering, more than 30 police officers surrounded the believers and later escorted them to a local police station.
During the interrogation, a police officer told one of them, Zeng Weihua, in his 60s, that believing in God means believing in xie jiao or heterodox teachings. “Christian gatherings are a disturbance of the public order,” he added. Mr. Zeng angered the officer by disapproving with his statements, who demanded to know the names of the people who preached the gospel to him. When Mr. Zeng refused to answer, several police officers surrounded him and punched and kicked him; one police officer stomped on his inner thighs with his feet. Mr. Zeng trembled with pain and his legs remained sore for more than 20 days.
For a week, the police interrogated Zeng Weihua every day from 8 o’clock in the morning until noon trying to extract more information about his belief in God, assaulting him every time he refused to reply.
According to sources, to protect Zeng Weihua from being imprisoned and tortured again, his family was forced to give nearly 40,000 RMB to the public security and judicial departments. In the end, the court sentenced Zeng to two years in prison, with a reprieve, on charges of “believing in xie jiao and disrupting public order.”
The families of other arrested believers were forced to pay the authorities fines ranging from 18,000 RMB to 110,000 RMB, nearly 440,000 RMB altogether. After being detained for periods ranging from 15 to 90 days, the nine Christians were finally released, but they remain under close surveillance by the authorities.
(All the names in this article are pseudonyms.)
Reported by Jiang Tao
Jiang Tao (uses pseudonyms for security reasons), aged 42, is from Henan Province. He previously served as a magazine editor and has long been concerned about vulnerable groups that are being persecuted in China. He has written a variety of commentaries probing human rights issues in China, and his articles have been published in international journals. After leaving his magazine job in 2015, he started visiting and interviewing persecuted religious groups and other vulnerable groups and gathering information about incidents. He joined Bitter Winter in 2018, and since then is dedicated to reporting the persecution incidents in Henan, Shanghai, Anhui, and other regions.