Zhang Shaojie's daughter, Zhang Huixin, son-in-law, Sun Zhulei,
and 1-year-old granddaughter, Sun Jiexi, were aided by Chinese
Christian convert and activist Bob Fu's organization, reported the Associated Press . The family was originally based in Southeast China before arriving in Dallas, Texas, on Monday.
Zhang's controversial sentence blamed the pastor for gathering
crowds to "disturb public order," a decision which ChinaAid
argued constituted religious persecution and the Chinese
government's attempt to hold back the growth of Christianity.
"This case shows the Chinese government continues to cover up
religious persecution with fabricated criminal charges against an
innocent church leader," said Bob Fu, the head of China Aid,
according to The Telegraph.
Liu Weiguo, a rights lawyer who has worked with the pastor in
the past, said that he was shocked at the severity of the
"I strongly believe Zhang Shaojie is innocent. This is a total set-
up by the local government," the lawyer said.
Although the church is officially sanctioned by the Communist
government, it has reportedly been involved in land disputes for
a new building with local authorities.
On July 8, in its Daily Briefing, the U.S. Department of State
spoke out against Zhang's sentence, describing China's actions
as "retaliation for his peaceful advocacy on behalf of his church
"We call on Chinese authorities to release Pastor Zhang and we
urge China to cease harassment of his family members and
congregants. We call on the Chinese authorities to allow citizens
to worship freely in accordance with China's own laws and its
international human rights commitments. Freedom of religion is
a critical – is critical to a peaceful, inclusive, stable, and thriving
society," spokesperson Jen Psaki said.
Fu assisted with Zhang's family's departure, which was initially
blocked on June 23 by officials, who held up them up for reasons
of "national security."
"Fu then flew to Southeast Asia to activate a network that
escorted the three out of China and to the United States. He said
U.S. authorities gave the family authorization to enter the
country to appeal for asylum on the grounds of religious
freedom," reported AP. The report added that a spokesman for
the Beijing Embassy refused to confirm the account based on
"U.S. law and policy."
In an email from Fu, Zhang expressed his gratitude that his
daughter's family was now secure.
"Our family and our church want to thank the U.S. government
and many anonymous church leaders in different parts of the
world for helping assist our family's hard fought freedom. Our
family comes here to raise awareness of the deteriorating
situation of religious freedom in Nanle and in China," he wrote.