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Pastor released but not freed

HANGZHOU (Agencies): Reverend Yuese, who opposed the removal of crosses from Church buildings in China, was released on April 5 from detention by the authorities in Zhejiang after three months behind bars.

AsiaNews reported that Reverend Gu, also known as Joseph Gu, is in charge of the Chongyi Church, the largest Protestant congregation in the country with about 10,000 members.

He was arrested on February 1 and charged with embezzlement, but no details of the charge were stated.

Reverend Gu had forcefully and publicly criticised the authorities for destroying the crosses. In May 2015, his Church issued a statement opposing new regulations on religious buildings and the removal of religious symbols.  

The following July, he signed an open letter to the Zhejiang Religious Affairs Bureau and the Church’s own website, which carried the statement, was blocked.

On January 18 this year, he was removed from his post and nine days later, he and his wife, Zhou Lianmei, went missing. Two days after that, it was announced that he was cooperating with the police in an investigation into the embezzlement charge.

The Chongyi Church also received a formal notification from the police, saying that the clergyman was under guard at a certain location.

One week later, Christian Solidarity Worldwide reported that although his situation had become clearer, what remains unclear is how much freedom he has.

China has now passed laws that legalise home detention with electronic surveillance and it is up to the authorities to decide how long this can go on for.

“He cannot go anywhere he wishes. His communication with people, all social contacts and meetings have all received restrictions. If he wants to go to a place or do something, he cannot do it until he obtains the public security department approval,” China Aid quoted a local person as saying on April 7.

The situation of the recently released lawyer, Zhang Kai, is even less clear, as he may simply be on bail and awaiting further hearings.

Zhang was originally under residential surveillance in a designated place, a far stricter limitation than simply residential surveillance.

Lawyers picked up last year have faced the same fate.

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