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Family asks China to free ailing preacher

BEIJING — Charismatic preacher Gong Shengliang led a popular Christian group that spiraled into violence under persecution by Chinese authorities and the temptations of power. Now Gong has suffered an apparent stroke in prison, and his family members are calling for his release.

In an open letter, family members of the 60-year-old Gong said prison authorities rebuffed a request that he be given medical parole.

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Gong had to be helped by two people to walk to a seat in the prison visiting room in the city of Wuhan. He drooled and couldn’t talk and move his left side, said the letter dated Dec. 11, the day after the visit.

‘‘I asked him if his spirits were good. He could only say ‘good, good,’ ’’ his sister Gong Shuzhen said last week in Beijing, where she, the preacher’s two adult daughters, and two other followers had come to petition the Supreme Court and national legislature. ‘‘I told him, ‘The God we believe in will save you.’ ’’

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