Beijing – A Paris-based rights group called on China on Wednesday to release a 23-year old religious dissident arrested for using the internet to support unauthorised Christian activities.
Reporters Without Borders called on Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao to order the release of Zhang Shengqi, who was arrested on November 26 for publishing internet articles supporting China’s banned Christian church.
“Zhang’s is the first case of a cyber dissident jailed for expressing support for the banned Christian Church,” Robert Medard, head of the media advocacy group said in a statement.
“He has been accused of divulging state secrets, when in fact he only published articles on the government crackdown on his religious community.”
Zhang was arrested at his home in northeastern Jilin province. Police searched his house and confiscated his mobile phone and articles written by another jailed religious dissident, Liu Fenggang.
In recent months, China has moved to crackdown on unauthorised religious groups, arresting group leaders and razing unlicensed places of worship and temples, rights group and local officials have said.
China permits worship in official versions of the four main religions of Buddhism, Taoism, Islam and Christianity, but keeps them under strict state control.
Nevertheless, a series of underground Buddhist and Christian groups, particularly evangelical and charismatic type churches, have expanded rapidly over recent years and drawn in millions of worshippers.