Name: Zhang Shaojie
Country of Origin: China
Background: Prior to his detention, Zhang Shaojie was the pastor of Nanle County Church in Henan Province, China, and he was also the local leader of the Three-Self Patriotic Movement.
Reason for Arrest:
In mid-November 2013, Pastor Zhang was detained at age 49 following several land disputes with local government officials after the Communist Party authorities tried to seize the land he had previously purchased to construct a church building. He and more than 20 other congregation members had previously gathered for worship purposes. Pastor Zhang was arrested, charged with “gathering a crowd to disrupt public order” and sentenced to 12 years in prison by July 2014. The day after Pastor Zhang was detained, the 20 other participants were rounded up and held illegally, without legal counsel, and tortured; they were soon released.
According to Church in Chains, “church members and rights lawyers believe the government’s persecution of Pastor Zhang arose not only from the desire to seize land and limit church growth but also from the pastor’s frequent defense of marginalized people who had their rights violated.”
Since his his arrest in 2014, Pastor Zhang’s family, including his elderly parents, has been harassed by local security authorities. His eldest daughter, Zhang Huixin, has had her car confiscated; she, her husband, and her young child had to go into hiding after receiving numerous threats from officials, before they were able to escape from China.
- In January 2021, Pastor Zhang was transferred from Xinxiang prison to Zhengzhou prison to participate in “concentrated education” and finish the remaining 5 years of imprisonment. A notice on his situation read the following:
- “After the Convict’s admission into prison, the first two months will be for concentrated education. Within two months of admission into prison, visitation day will be every Tuesday, only one visit per visitor permitted per month… During the visitation, items cannot be passed between convict and visitor. The prison facility provides stations for daily necessities, and the convict may buy items at their discretion.”
- Pastor Zhang’s family has reported that they haven’t had contact or visitation with him since the prison transfer; they feel that this is not a good sign.