July 8, 2006

China jails underground church head

HONG KONG (Reuters) - A court in China's Henan province has
jailed the head of one of the country's largest underground
Christian churches for seven and a half years, Hong Kong's RTHK
radio reported on Saturday.

Quoting the China Aid Association, a U.S.-based group which
monitors religious freedom in China, RTHK said Zhang Rongliang
had been convicted of fraudulently attaining a passport and
crossing a border illegally. Association officials were not
immediately available for comment.

Zhang had been arrested several times before, serving a
total of 12 years in prison for organising church activities,
according to international human rights group Amnesty
International. Amnesty said he had been tortured in jail,

Aged about 55, Zhang heads the China for Christ Church, one
of the country's biggest "house church" networks. Many Chinese
Christians worship in private homes rather than in the official
churches supervised by state-backed religious bodies.

Chinese police sometimes harass and detain members of the
underground churches. In June, the U.S. House of
Representatives approved resolutions accusing China of rising
levels of religious persecution. Beijing called the accusations