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Chinese pastor sentenced to labor camp
Whitney Jones, Baptist Press
July 29, 2011

Chinese pastor sentenced to labor camp

Chinese pastor sentenced to labor camp
Whitney Jones, Baptist Press
July 29, 2011

SUQIAN CITY,

China — A key leader of

the Chinese House Church Alliance (CHCA) has been sentenced to two years in a

labor camp as part of a crackdown on illegal worship, ChinaAid reported July

25.

Pastor Shi Enhao, deputy chairman of CHCA, was sentenced to “re-education

through labor” — an extrajudicial punishment that requires no conviction or

trial — because of his position in an influential umbrella group of Chinese

house churches.

ChinaAid, a group that monitors religious freedom in China,

reported that Shi’s current charge is for “illegal meetings and illegal

organizing of venues for religious meetings.”

To become legal, Chinese churches must be registered with the government and

join the Three-Self Patriotic Movement. But with registration comes

restrictions on Sunday School, baptisms for minors and evangelism, said Bob Fu,

president and founder of ChinaAid.

According to ChinaAid, the labor camp sentence is not the first police action

against Shi in Suqian City,

which is 500 miles south of Beijing

and home to more than 5 million people. The pastor was detained by police March

31 and held for 12 days.

Then, the Suqian Public Security Bureau detained the pastor June 21 for “suspicion

of using superstition to undermine national law enforcement,” ChinaAid

reported, noting that criminal detention is the first step in a legal process

that usually ends in a criminal offense and a prison sentence.

Shi’s story unfolds against the backdrop of Shouwang

Church, with nearly 1,000 members

in Beijing, which has been

attempting to meet outdoors despite persecution since April. Some have

criticized Shouwang Church

for trying to continue meeting as one large congregation instead of breaking up

into smaller house churches like CHCA has done.

Shi’s church, with a congregation of several thousand, is actually larger than

Shouwang but the CHCA members have been meeting in multiple locations across

the city in an attempt to pass under the police’s radar. However, ChinaAid

noted, Shi’s sentence shows that contrary to critics of Shouwang, investigation

and punishment are not limited to large one-site churches.

CHCA has already faced persecution from the Chinese government for worshipping

illegally. The Domestic Security Protection Department ordered CHCA to stop

meeting and confiscated the umbrella group’s car, musical instruments, choir

robes and 140,000 yuan — the equivalent to more than $21,000 — in donations,

according to ChinaAid.

Shi’s family has served the church in China

for four generations, and since the investigation of illegal churches his three

daughters and their husbands also have been threatened by police, ChinaAid

reported.

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Jones is a student at Union

University in Jackson,

Tenn., and an intern with Baptist Press.)