Chinese Religious Affairs Official Clarifies Misreported Criminal Cases

Using pictures and fact sheets, a top Chinese official on religious affairs on Tuesday in Washington clarified for the US media two recent criminal cases in China which had been misreported.

"The Constitution of China guarantees the religious freedom and protects normal and legal religious activities," said Ye Xiaowen, director of China's State Administration for Religious Affairs.

"However, no one in the country is allowed to use religious affairs as an excuse to undermine the public order or damage the physical or mental health of other citizens."

Ye, who is leading a delegation of senior religious leaders of China on a visit to the United States, at the invitation of religious organizations here, told reporters at the Chinese Embassy that Gong Shengliang in one case and Lorang Toinzhub and A'an Zhaxi in the other were penalized because of their criminal offenses, not normal religious activities.

Gong Shengliang, a 49-year-old man from Zaoyang, Hubei province in central China, received a life sentence in October for rape and assault convictions. Ye showed pictures of those who had been beaten or disfigured by Gong's followers and those raped by Gong.

Ye said the victims had been targeted either because they refused to join the so-call "South China Church" founded by Gong or because they disagreed with him after becoming his followers.

Ye said Gong also used fallacies such as: those in pursuit of God "should focus their love, passion and desire on the preacher," or Gong himself -- in order to deceive and control the mentality of female followers and ultimately rape them.

Christian leaders in China denounced Gong as "devil" and "Satan," Ye said.

Lorang Toinzhub and A'an Zhaxi, both residents of the Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture of Garze in southwestern Sichuan province, were sentenced to death, in Toinzhub's case, and to death with a two-year reprieve in Zhaxi's case, in Dec. for inciting splitting the country, scheming to set off explosions, and unlawfully possessing firearms and ammunition.

At the news conference, Ye showed US reporters pictures of the scenes of the five explosions the two had detonated, from January 2001 to April 2002, in several places in Sichuan.

One person was killed and a dozen others hurt, including one critically.

Cao Shengjie, president of the China Christian Council also told the news conference that for those who want a clear picture of China's situation in religious affairs, please "go to China andsee for yourself."