A Chinese Christian leader sentenced to two years of “reeducation through labour” has been released early from detention, the China Aid Association (CAA) reports.
The jailing of Pastor Shi Enhao, deputy leader of the Chinese House Church Alliance (CHCA), prompted an international outcry last year, and was part of a wider crackdown on evangelical Christians by the Chinese authorities.
On 4 March 4, 2011 Pastor Shi was arrested by officers of the Suqian Municipal Public Security Bureau. During his interrogation he was beaten and ordered to recant his faith and cease his activities. He was released from custody but on 31 May police raided Shi’s church in Suqian City in Eastern China during worship services. They ordered the evangelical congregation to cease worship and confiscated the church’s musical instruments, choir robes, and bank accounts. Shi and other church officials were detained, and on June 1 they searched his home, threatening his wife, Zhu Guangyun, and their four adult children, the CAA reported.
While other church leaders were released within a few days, police kept Shi in custody, first sentencing him to 12 days administrative custody. On June 21 he was placed in criminal detention and charged with “illegal meetings and illegal organising of venues for religious meetings.” Though no trial was held, Pastor Shi was ordered jailed for two years in a labour camp for reeducation by government officials.
Under Chinese law, Protestant churches are required to register with and be administered by the government’s Three-Self Patriotic Movement (TSPM). However, members of China’s House Church movement have refused to submit to the TSPM, accusing the agency of censoring sermons, controlling the appointment of ministers and propounding liberal theology.
On 20 January 2012, Pastor Shi was freed from prison, though the CAA reports that no explanation has been offered for his early release.
The émigré rights group said it welcomed the “early release of Pastor Shi Enhao” but also called upon authorities to “uphold the policy of freedom of religion” and release all Chinese citizens jailed for their faith.