Prominent House Church Leader Zhang Rongliang Released Early from Prison
September 19, 2011
ZHENGZHOU, Henan, (christiansunite.com) -- One of the most prominent house church leaders in China, Zhang Rongliang, has been released from prison nine months before the end of his prison sentence and allowed to return home.
Family members report that he is in good spirits and that, apart from serious diabetes, he is in good health. Zhang's wife and their two sons had been deeply concerned about Zhang's health in prison because of his long-standing diabetic condition, which had become so serious that he was transferred to a civilian hospital for nearly two months while he awaited trial. He was seen handcuffed to his hospital bed.
Worries that he might die in prison had prompted international calls for his release. Family members said they and Zhang thank all of those in the international community who have tirelessly championed his case since his arrest.
Zhang was arrested in December 2004 and sentenced to 7-1/2 years in July 2006 for "attaining a passport through cheating" and "illegal border crossing." He had travelled internationally, including to the United States, Australia, Egypt and Singapore, to attend world mission conferences. Zhang was released on Aug. 31, nine months early, and allowed to return to his home near Zhengzhou, the provincial capital of Henan province.
ChinaAid applauds the humanitarian spirit shown by the Chinese authorities in granting Zhang early release. ChinaAid also asks for those who have been concerned about Zhang to continue to pray for him, for his health and for his leadership in the house church movement.
Zhang is well-known internationally as the co-author of the historic 1998 "Confession of Faith of House Churches in China" and a companion declaration on the house churches' attitudes toward the government, the Three-Self Patriotic Movement that oversees the official Protestant church and the government's religious policy.
He is the leader of the Fangcheng Mother Church in central China's Henan province and the leader of the China for Christ Church, one of the largest house church networks with an estimated membership of more than 10 million.
Zhang, who was secretly baptized in 1969, had previously spent 12 years in prison on five different occasions during which he had been harshly tortured, including with electric shocks, while in prison.
Before his latest imprisonment, Zhang had been featured in books including the ground-breaking Jesus in Beijing, by former TIME correspondent David Aikman, as well as in the international press, including TIME, Newsweek and Christianity Today.