Two Christians have been killed in the Chinese government's crackdown on pastor Gong Shengliang and his South China Church in central Hubei Province, according to a letter from members of the underground church. Gong was sentenced to death Dec. 5 on charges of operating an "evil cult" and on the seemingly trumped-up charges of rape and assault. The month-long period for deciding his appeal was extended Jan. 5 by a Hubei court following sharp international protest.
The letter, written by two underground Christian women, Li Ailian and Wang Yue, reports that in efforts to find and apprehend Gong and suppress the South China Church, police arrested and severely beat at least 25 Christians, killing two of them, while torturing others with electric prods. The letter was dated Dec. 31 and smuggled to the New York-based Committee for Investigation on Persecution of Religion in China. It was released Jan. 11 by Freedom House in Washington.