Date: April 2, 2019
(Qingdao, Shandong—April 2, 2019) Qingdao officials released an elderly minister on Friday upon the completion of his two-year-and-one-month sentence for allegedly "provoking troubles."
Later that night, the released minister, Zhou Dixian, traveled to Beijing in order to protect his rights and worship at a church there.
Before his arrest, Zhou founded a church that was not registered with the government, an action his son believed contributed to authorities seizing him. Now that he is released, he would like to re-start the church. His family is concerned that the government may target him again.
In November 2012, the authorities demolished Zhou’s home, where he lived with his wife, Li Yuzhen, and razed their apple orchard. The local police refused to handle the case, claiming the actions came from the government, and so Zhou traveled to Beijing to report the issue to superior officials. During the March 2017 meetings of China’s two major governing bodies, Zhou and Li were seized and sent back to their hometown, where he received a two-year-and-one-month prison sentence for "provoking troubles," and she received a two-year-and-three-month incarceration term. Li is still in Jinan Prison and is scheduled for release in two months.
Zhou published an open letter on March 31, saying he finally got to see his family members and was grateful for those who supported him.
"I would have died of maltreatment if God hadn’t protected me and the [Christian] brothers and sisters didn’t pray for me," he wrote. The letter also describes the treatment he received while in prison, including being forced to sleep on his side, which caused unbearable shoulder and back pain; being forced to tear apart squid in salty water, which caused prisoners to suffer infections and nail loss; and being made to work until standing up became arduous.
When Zhou asked for medicine so that he would be able to cope, authorities denied him and even barred his son from purchasing the drugs for him.
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