read the Bible and hold worship survives, their friends said Friday, September 8.
Religious rights group Christian Aid Association (CAA), confirmed to BosNewsLife that Li Ming, Jin Jirong, Wang Yuan, and Li Mingbo, "have not been allowed to read the Bible" since June 27 when they were sent "to a detention center" shortly after their sentencing "to two years re-education through labor."
Prison authorities also forbid the use of "Biblical terms such as God [and] Jesus when they communicate with their families," the group added.
FELLOW CHURCH MEMBERS
The believers were apparently arrested in Langzhong City of China's Sichuan Province late June when visiting a 'Social Order Office' to inquire about the situation of two fellow church members, identified as Zhu Guizhen and Shi Shihe.
Zhu Guizhen and Shi Shihe were reportedly arrested earlier in the day while on their way home from Sunday service by a group of plain-clothed policemen.
In what can be seen as a test-case for other Christians held in labor camps and prisons, the four men "submitted applications through their lawyers demanding their right to read the Bible in the detention center," CAA said.
WORSHIP SERVICE DEMANDED
They also asked that a "suitable place inside the detention center be provided for regular Sunday services," the group reported. The applicants request "conforms to the rights granted by Chinese Constitution and should be assured and protected," wrote Attorney Li Baiguang in the application, a text of which was obtained by BosNewsLife.
However in a statement, Li cautioned that, "Because of the current reality in China, one that lacks democratic supervision and judicial independence, it is very possible that our efforts will not gain any substantial success."
Yet, "through this case, a vast number of Chinese Christians and citizens would know that ones religious freedom can not be deprived even in prison," Li added. "Thus more Christians would be encouraged to resort to the law as their weapon to defend their right of religious freedom, especially those in prison and their family members, thus promoting evangelism in the prison and in China," the attorney added.
CHINESE JUDICIAL SYSTEM
Li stressed that the case could "shake up Chinese judicial officers and let them know that religious freedom is a birth right that can never be deprived. Even when one has lost his physical freedom, his heart can never be imprisoned."
He said he hoped that the case could also serve "as a legal education" for "officers" of the Chinese government "who lack the basic concept of Rule of Law and gradually teach them to respect citizens civil rights." The case, the attorney said, "will enlighten Chinese citizens; cultivate their concept and awareness of Rule of Law; thus mentally preparing them for a future democratic system in China."
Human rights groups have expressed concern about what they see as a crackdown on especially churches operating outside the official denominations backed by the ruling Communist Party of China. Most of China's estimated 80 million Christians gather in what are known as 'house churches' outside the mainstream 'official' churches. (With reports from China and BosNewsLife Research).