Chengdu, Sichuan – Lawyers of Christians imprisoned in a massive crackdown of a large Sichuanese church have submitted complaint letters to local government bodies, stating they have been repeatedly denied access to their clients in violation of Chinese legal practice.
According to the law, Chinese lawyers must meet with their incarcerated clients within 48 hours of them being behind bars. However, in the days since the arrests began on Dec. 9, not even one lawyer has been permitted to meet with the more than 150 affected Early Rain Covenant Church members. Instead, many of the prisoners have received charges such as “illegal business operations”, “picking quarrels and provoking troubles”, and even “inciting subversion of state power.”
Li Guisheng, the lawyer representing church elder Qin Defu, who was charged with “illegal business operations,” said, “I have worked very hard but failed [to meet with Qin]. It is difficult for my client in the Chengdu detention center to feel that he has been treated fairly and justly.”
On Jan. 29, Li issued a complaint letter to the Chengdu Municipal People’s Procuratorate and accused two police officers at the detention center where Qin is being held of “not performing their duties.” He said he had made a long journey to the detention center four times in an attempt to fulfill his job as an attorney but was told in each instance that he could not meet with Qin because of ongoing interrogation. In conclusion, he wrote, “The assistance of a defense lawyer is the constitutional right of the client.”
The same day, Attorney Zhu Jianxin and a fellow colleague filed complaints with the Chengdu Municipal People’s Procuratorate, stating they also had not been able to meet with the Early Rain Covenant Church attendees they represent.
Yang Hui and Wen Yu, hired by detained church elders Li Zihu and Su Bingsen, respectively, released an open letter questioning why none of the Early Rain Covenant Church members have been allowed to meet with their lawyers, with the given reason being that they are still under interrogation.
Additionally, some families of the detained church members have had their bank accounts frozen.
In 2018, Early Rain Covenant Church faced intense persecution, with the authorities suppressing both their memorials for the victims of a 2008 earthquake and the 1989 Tiananmen Square Massacre. On the evening of Dec. 9, the persecution culminated in an overnight, mass arrest of around 100 people. By the end of the week, many more had also been taken into police custody.
While some have been released, others have been pressed with various charges, including Pastor Wang Yi and his wife, Jiang Rong, who are both in custody for “inciting subversion of state power.”