A group of Christian house church leaders, who function without government registration, has issued a public appeal to China's leaders, calling for the release of imprisoned Christians.

The handwritten appeal was released to two journalists in Zhengzhou, a city in China's central Henan Province. According to Religion News Service, the document calls for the unconditional release of house church Christians in labor camps, for dialogue between government and church leaders in hopes of recognition for house churches, and for a clear-cut definition of religious cults.

"We have been persecuted so long, we just have to fight the last fight," says Zhang Rongliang, a Christian farmer who is spokesperson for the group. "We have been silent too long."

Shen Cheng-en, associate general secretary of the China Christian Council, says repression of Christians is mostly a local, not a national problem. "I don't think persecution is everywhere. The policy of the central government is to ensure religious freedom."

Nelson Graham, head of East Gates Ministries, which assists in Bible publishing within China, says, "This declaration reveals a great level of political naivete."

Meanwhile, Compass Direct News Service reports that in July an unnamed senior staff member at one of China's leading seminaries openly vented his criticisms of the Three Self Patriotic Movement (TSPM), the official Protestant ruling church body.

The senior staff member said China's leaders have rehabilitated the tspm without openly noting how its leaders were actively involved during the 1950s and 1960s in persecuting Christians on a "massive scale."

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