A member of an unofficial Protestant church in the southwestern Chinese province of Yunnan is being prosecuted by the authorities for allegedly organizing and taking part in the activities of an "evil cult."
Tu Yan, who was initially detained three months ago, denied the charges, saying she is simply a Christian believer. Her lawyer, Ren Quanniu, said that she was accused of being a member of the Three Teams of Servants Church, which is considered as "heretical" by the authorities.
"They are saying that she's a Three Teams of Servants member, but naturally Tu Yan denies this," Ren told Radio Free Asia on Thursday. "The state security police were insistent that she be prosecuted on these charges on the basis that she is party of the Three Teams of Servants, which is designated an evil cult," he added.
Tu's father, Tu Lijun, said that he was not allowed to visit his daughter in detention. Ren said that the authorities also denied him permission to see his client.
"Back then I applied for bail for Tu Yan, for a second time, but they haven't approved my application," he narrated. "After New Year, I got a phone call from the state security police saying that the case had already been transferred for prosecution, which was followed up with a written notification," he continued.
The U.S.-based Christian rights group China Aid reported last December that four other church members have been detained along with Tu. Local Christians however, claimed that as many as 12 people were taken into custody.
Tu's sister, Tu Kui, said that the other Christians who have been detained in Yunnan on similar charges have already been released. She expressed her belief that her sister is being used as an example to pressure other unofficial churches to register with the government's Three-Self Patriotic Association.
In November, the police detained eight Christians in Yunnan's capital of Kunming on similar charges. The Christians have been accused of belonging to the Shouters, a Christian sect that originated from Taiwan and designated as a cult by the Chinese government. However, Xu Yonghai, the pastor of Holy Love Fellowship in Beijing, maintained that it is a Christian denomination.