Source: Direct Reports from China
Date: June 24, 2018
The whole family of four from Dongdu town in Xintai, a county-level city in Shandong, was arrested by Chinese authorities for their belief, in the course of a few years and either sent to prison or fined. As members of a house church, they continue to be persecuted and harassed even after serving their sentence.
The son of the family, 38-year-old Zhang Yu, was arrested on September 18, 2014, when over a dozen armed policemen burst into the house church he was attending. The police confiscated everything they found: Bibles, personal items, and money, which was never returned and took the believers to the Xintai police station. After interrogating Zhang Yu on his faith, the police sent him to the city of Jining where the People’s Court sentenced him to three years in prison for the crime of “believing in a xie jiao.” He was sent to the Luning prison to serve his time.
Xie jiao under Chinese law are these movements whose teachings are listed by the government as “heterodox” in a periodically updated list. However, it happens often that the laws against xie jiao are used to persecute Christians who in fact do not belong to a movement listed as a xie jiao. In this case, the house church targeted was in fact not listed as a xie jiao.
On February 18, 2017, Zhang Yu was released early because his sentence had been reduced by seven months. After he returned to his hometown, the local police forced him to write a guarantee that he would no longer believe in God, and they visited him at home every month to question and monitor his faith. Every time, officers would warn him that he was not allowed to leave the area without permission and threatened him that he would be sentenced to life if he became religious again.
The family’s first encounter with the police was when Zhang Yu’s younger sister was arrested in 2006 for her belief. She was fined 200 RMB and released. The real trouble began when Zhang Yu’s father was arrested in Yiyuan county of the city of Zibo, on December 20, 2008, and sentenced to 15 months for believing in a cult. After his release, the police installed monitoring devices at the entrance to their home and instructed their neighbors and village committee members to keep an eye on them and report to authorities as soon as they noticed a stranger arrive.
While Zhang Yu was still in prison, on April 18, 2015, Jining City People’s Court sentenced his father for a deferred four-year sentence for belonging to a xie jiao, again. That same day, his mother was arrested, but because she had a serious health condition, she was released with a fine of 5,000 RMB.