HONG KONG—A high-school student who refused to renounce Christianity has been expelled from a Han Chinese military production corps school in the remote northwestern region of Xinjiang, an overseas rights group said.
Second-year high-school student Chen Le said he was expelled by the Huashan Middle School in the 2nd Agricultural Division of the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps on Oct. 20, the U.S.-based China Aid group said in a statement.
"Chen Le ... was found by Bazhou Public Security Agency and other related agencies to have engaged in Christian gatherings," read a copy of the expulsion letter posted on the China Aid Web site.
"Efforts from the class advisor and some leaders from the school in educating him have all failed and this student persists in his belief that he should not renounce his Christian belief," it said.
"Given the above situation, this school advises him to transfer to other related schools," the letter said.
The People's Liberation Army production companies, or bingtuan, are units of command that enable Beijing to maintain key areas and exploit rich resources in the largely Muslim northwestern region of Xinjiang.
Mostly Muslim ethnic Uyghurs, who are native to the Xinjiang region, have also complained that young people under 18 have been barred from attending mosques in Xinjiang, and are expected to eat during the holy fasting month of Ramadan.
Chen said he was asked by the head of the agricultural division whether it was true that he had attended Christian meetings. "I just told him the truth," Chen said. "He asked me to write a letter guaranteeing that I wouldn't do it again, but I refused."
"So it took from Oct. 14 to last Tuesday, when the school wrote me a letter telling me to leave," he said.
Communist Youth League
Chen said he told the school he would prefer not to attend school than to write a self-criticism or "examine his error."
"Now I am just sitting at home," he said.
School Party secretary Sun Fu said Chen's Christian beliefs were incompatible with his membership in the Communist Party Youth League.
"He is a member of the League and an official in the student assembly," Sun said.
"We just wanted him to write an ideological report recognizing the problem, because he acts on behalf of the Party in the League."
"That is an atheist organization," Sun said.
"Either that, or he could resign from the League. There are documents about this from the Party Organization Department at the national level. You can look it up yourselves."
But Chen said he had been willing to resign from the League.
"They told me that no student would be allowed to take part in religious activities, and that the school would kick me out," he said.
"I offered to resign from the League, but that I would hold on to my beliefs as was provided for in the Constitution of the People's Republic of China. Citizens are supposed to have the freedom of religious belief," Chen said.
Barred from exams
China Aid said Chen had subsequently also been barred from taking the university entrance exam, crucial for any Chinese student wishing to pursue higher education.
"He was expelled on Oct. 20, and they won't let him attend class," spokesman Bob Fu said.
"This means that he won't get the chance to sit the university entrance examinations."
"The bingtuan are in breach of China's Constitution," he said.
Chen said he wasn't sure what to do about his studies.
"I believe in God, and Jesus, so all I can do is wait and see what God has in store for me," Chen said.
Original reporting in Mandarin by Qiao Long. Mandarin service director: Jennifer Chou. Translated and written for the Web in English by Luisetta Mudie. Edited by Sarah Jackson-Han.