deacon of Living Stone Church, Guizhou Province, was released on 7 August after
spending more than two years in detention.
In July 2015,
Zhang Xiuhong, the presiding deacon of Living Stone Church, was stopped and
hauled from her car as she was driving near the church building. One of the
assailants climbed into her car and drove away. Zhang’s house was later raided,
and she was subsequently charged with ‘illegal business operations’. However,
her interrogators’ questions mainly focused on the church, its pastors and
other core members, rather than her business activities.
Zhang was held in detention for a year and a half before standing trial on 23 January 2017. She was sentenced to five years in
prison, later reduced to a three year sentence, suspended for five years.
has been released, she will be under certain restrictions for the duration of
her five-year suspended sentence. Sources familiar with the situation say she
will not be able to travel freely and will have to report to the police station
Church, an unregistered Protestant church which at one time had over 700
members, came under increasing pressure to close because it refused to join the
state-sanctioned patriotic association for Protestant churches. A ‘Rectification
Order’ received by the church on 18 November 2015 from the Nanming District
City Urban Administrative and Law Enforcement Bureau stated that the church’s
use of a commercial building was illegal.
members were then detained or fined in connection with the case, and on 6 January
2017, Pastor Yang Hua was sentenced to two and a half years in
prison. In March 2017, Yang’s lawyer reported that he was “on the verge of paralysis” as
a result of severe inflammation in his legs. He has since been moved to the
medical wing of the prison.
Solidarity Worldwide’s Chief Executive Mervyn Thomas said, “While we are pleased that Zhang Xiuhong has been
allowed to return home, we continue to believe that the charges against her are
false, and that she has been unjustly detained and sentenced because of her
connection with Living Stone Church. We call on the authorities to ensure her
complete and unconditional freedom, and to release Pastor Yang Hua immediately,
also without condition. We further urge the authorities to allow Living Stone
Church to gather for peaceful worship, and to carry out other religious
activities in line with Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and