CHINA – Pastor released early after nearly seven years behind bars Prominent Chinese house church leader Pastor Zhang Rongliang has been freed from jail early – after almost seven years' detention.
Release has learnt that he was released from prison in Kaifeng on August 31 – nine months before his seven-and-a-half-year sentence was officially due to end. Pastor Zhang leads the Fangcheng Mother Church in central China's Henan province and also heads up one of China's largest house church networks, the China for Christ Church.
He was detained in December 2004 and convicted of 'obtaining a passport through cheating' and 'illegal border crossing' in July 2006. He had frequently attended mission conferences abroad.
Concerns over his poor health had prompted repeated international calls for his release. Pastor Zhang is said to have suffered several chronic diseases during his imprisonment, including diabetes – and had a stroke in 2007.
A house church leader of some 30 years' standing, Pastor Zhang had already served a total of 12 years in prison during five previous periods of detention. He spent seven years in the Xi Hua labour camp for the crime of 'counter-revolution under the guise of religion'.
Speaking of his most recent detention, Pastor Zhang has said that he was able to share the Gospel with many of his fellow inmates – including former high-ranking officials. He has returned to his home near Zhengzhou, provincial capital of Henan.
Meanwhile, China Aid President Bob Fu is currently in the UK for Release International, to talk about the situation for Christians in China following the recent clampdown on human rights lawyers. Bob will be the speaker at a Release meeting on Saturday in Birmingham – and at a prayer breakfast next Tuesday during the Labour Party conference in Liverpool. (For more details, visit www.releaseinternational.org (http://www.releaseinternational.org/) or ring 01689 823491.) Bob is a leading advocate on behalf of the persecuted church in China. Once a house church pastor, he was driven out of China due to persecution.