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China: underground church leader sent to labour camp

 Xu Guoxing, 47 year-old leader of an underground Chinese Christian church was sentenced to 18 months hard labour last week, Human Rights in China (HRIC) reported yesterday. More than 20 people were initially arrested by police during a prayer service held at Xu's home on 8 December. The police also confiscated printed materials, tapes a computer, and the stools the worshippers were sitting on. While the other worshippers were freed, on 7 January, Xu's mother was informed in writing by Shanghai police that her son had been sentenced to 18 months 're-education through labour'. Xu's family was never notified of any formal charges or trial. Xu Guoxing, who is also known as Philip, is an important leader in Shanghai's underground church. He has already served more than six years in a labour camp for leading unofficial Christian prayer services. HRIC president Liu Qing said: "The Chinese government likes to claim to the international community that Chinese citizens enjoy full religious freedom. Yet the authorities continue to persecute religious groups that operate outside of official control. What makes this case even worse is that Xu Guoxing wasn't even granted the right of due legal process but was summarily sentenced to a labour camp without a trial." HRIC calls on the Chinese government to immediately release Xu Guoxing from the labour camp, and to demonstrate true religious tolerance by allowing China's underground churches to function without interference. Source: MISNA/HRIC