HONG KONG—Authorities in the central Chinese province of Henan are turning down attempts by members of unofficial Christian churches to appeal actions taken against them, a lawyer familiar with their cases has said.
Lawyer Wu Chenglian, who is based in Henan's Zhoukou city, said she had tried to handle several cases on behalf of local religious groups wanting to appeal actions against their members, and the authorities had refused to open case files on any of them.
"It is always the same now," she said.
...We got kicked around like a football, bounced between three different court chiefs and within the court bureaucracy."
Wu said she was acting for Shu Wenxiang, Xie Zhenji, and Tang Houyong,
all leaders of "house churches" not officially recognized by religious
"It is the same with Tang Houyong, and also with a number of cases from churches in Guangzhou, Shandong, and Anhui. The courts won't accept their cases."
"They all say they are acting on internal documents ordering them not to accept cases involving religious groups," Wu added.
The three house-church leaders were detained by national security police in Taikang county in December, while they were proselytizing.
They were sentenced to one year of "re-education through labor" by the re-education through labor committee of the Zhoukou municipal government, with the right to appeal within three months.
Kicked around departments
The three had engaged lawyer Wu Chenglian to lodge the appeal, with no success.
"They said that all cases had to be approved by the head of the court and by the director. We went to the head of the court, and he said we could ask the director. When we asked the director, he told us we should ask the head of the court," Wu said.
"We said, we don't care how you organize your workflow, we just want to submit the documents and you should accept them. But they said internal regulations dictated that the appeal should go to the administrative department before they could open a case file."
"After that, we got kicked around like a football, bounced between three different court chiefs and within the court bureaucracy."
Elsewhere in Henan, several dozen police detained several members of an unofficial church in Yucheng city. Four women were held under administrative sentence for 15 days for "organizing illegal religious activities."
Zhang Mingxuan, chairman of the Association of Chinese House Churches, said the women had now been released.
"But they have been given no official documentation regarding their detention, because they are afraid that our members will sue them," he said.
"So no record of detention was issued at the time they were taken away, nor when they were released."
Drug center razed
Meanwhile, the Fuyin Drug Rehabilitation Center under the two Protestant churches in the southwestern province of Yunnan was forcibly demolished by more than 200 people at the end of December.
No official documents were produced regarding the demolition work, and the center was demolished for being an "illegal structure."
Pastor Lin, who ran the center, said Tuesday that there were "many reasons" behind the demolition.
"They arrived with more than 200 people at 9 a.m. that morning. They completed the demolition in just over an hour because they used bulldozers and excavators, and they had razed it to the ground in no time," Lin said.
"The people who were receiving treatment at the center now have nowhere to go, and they are living on the demolition site in tents."
The authorities stepped up raids on unofficial house churches around the Christmas period, raiding the Guangzhou-based Liangren church and breaking up its meeting, and a bible school in Weifang city, in the eastern province of Shandong.
"House" churches, which operate without official registration documents and without the involvement of the local religious affairs bureaus, come in for surveillance and repeated raids, especially in more rural areas of the country, according to overseas rights groups.
Officially an atheist country, China nonetheless has an army of officials whose job is to watch over faith-based activities, which have spread rapidly in the wake of massive social change and economic uncertainty since economic reforms began 30 years ago.
Party officials are put in charge of Catholics, Buddhists, Taoists, Muslims, and Protestants. Judaism isn't recognized, and worship in nonrecognized temples, churches, or mosques is against the law.
In its most recent report on human rights in China, the U.S. State Department said freedom of religion is permitted to varying degrees around China.
Original reporting in Mandarin by Xin Yu. Mandarin service director: Jennifer Chou. Translated and written for the Web in English by Luisetta Mudie. Edited by Sarah Jackson-Han.