A Chinese pastor on Monday was sentenced to nine years in prison for “inciting subversion of state power” and “illegal business operations,” although his only crime was to preach the gospel in an unregistered church, supporters say.
The sentencing of Pastor Wang Yi of Early Rain Covenant Church was only the latest example in China’s crackdown on unregistered churches.
Churches within China must register either with the Three-Self Patriotic Movement (if they’re Protestant) or the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association. Because such congregations face extreme regulations, millions of Christians in the country worship at underground congregations.
Early Rain was not registered. Wang was arrested in 2018.
His attorney, Si Weijiang, told the Washington Post that the incitement charge “involves preaching and is an issue of speech, which has … inflicted no social harm.” The illegal business charge related to him printing Christian books,” Si said.
A court in Sichuan, which is in southwest China, handed down the sentence.
China Aid, which monitors religious freedom in the country, criticized China for the arrest and sentence.
“This is a pure case of unjust religious persecution against a peaceful preacher of a Chinese reformed church,” ChinaAid founder and president Dr. Bob Fu said. “This grave sentence demonstrates Xi's regime is determined to be the enemy of universal values and religious freedom. We call upon the international community to stand up to the Chinese Communist Party and hold this evil regime accountable.”
The sentence, Fu said, is the “harshest persecution to a Chinese house church pastor in more than a decade.”
“We urge Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, President Donald Trump, Vice President Mike Pence, and U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom Sam Brownback to condemn and take immediate action against this barbaric act by the Communist Party regime,” Fu said.
Chinese churches have faced severe restrictions in recent months. Government officials have edited sermons, ordered the removal of crosses, and replaced Ten Commandments displays with portraits of Chinese leaders. Chinese law forbids the proselytization of minors.
Michael Foust is a freelance writer. Visit his blog, MichaelFoust.com.
Photo courtesy: China News Wire
Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, the Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.