The Christian pastor of a church in China has been sentenced to 12 years in jail. Zhang Shaojie, who pastors the Nanle County Christian Church, was found guilty of “gathering crowds to disturb public order” and of fraud.
Shaojie and 23 members of his church were detained last year after a land dispute with local authorities.
Shaojie’s lawyer says that the pastor was “targeted by authorities who are trying to control the fast growth of churches.”
"I strongly believe Zhang Shaojie is innocent,” said Liu Weiguo, Shaojie’s lawyer. “This is a total set-up by the local government.”
The Chinese Constitution allows the right to freedom of religious belief, but that right is limited to worship within state-sanctioned religious bodies. Shaojie’s church is state-approved.
According to Christian Today, a communist official said Christian worship has become “too excessive and too haphazard” in China.
In 1949, the Communist Party came to power and there were just one million Christians in China. Professor Fenggang Yang of Purdue University has estimated that there will be 247 million Christians in China by 2030 – more than in the United States.
"By my calculations China is destined to become the largest Christian country in the world very soon," he said.
Publication date: July 7, 2014