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China's most famous house church prisoner, Mr. Xu Yongze, is free. The 58-year-old founder of the Born Again movement was released on May 16, after serving a three-year "re-education through labor" sentence for establishing an illegal organization in China. Xu revealed that he was tortured during interrogation sessions. Three weeks after his release, he told a friend in Beijing that once he had each arm handcuffed to an iron gate, and when the gates were opened, he was stretched up off the ground in a gruesome crucifix position."I came to feel how Jesus must have felt on the cross," Xu said. He expressed his appreciation for the international pressure that was put on the Chinese government to treat him fairly. Xu was originally arrested on March 15, 1997, when police raided a meeting of house church leaders in central China. Initially, no word was heard of him, and Christians worldwide began to fear the worst, especially when official church leaders like Dr. Han Wenzao denounced him as a "cult leader" and refused to admit he was a Christian at all.There were fears he might be executed. Then Chinese authorities intended to give him a 10-year sentence, but international pressure built up to such an extent that he instead received a four-year sentence, which was decreased to three years in December 1997. Xu's wife—arrested with him--served a sentence of a year and a half. Xu said that during the first months of his detention, he was slapped hundreds of times. He was also handcuffed with both arms behind his back and pulled up in mid-air for beating. He served his sentence in a labor camp where each prisoner had to string 2,500 Christmas tree bulbs every day with a thin wire. Sources say these decorative lights are exported ...

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Founder of China's Born Again Movement Set Free
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August 2000

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