Chinese Christian Leaders Jailed for Trying to Stop Church Demolition
Five leaders of a Christian church group of about 60,000 believers were sentenced to three to seven years in prison on Wednesday, November 25, in Northern China.
The Christian leaders–including Pastor Wang Xiaoguang, and two women, Yang Rongli and Zhang Huamei–were arrested in mid September for trying to stop their congregation buildings from being torn down.
According to a Chinese rights group, Chinese Human Rights Defenders, the Deputy County Chief of Fushan County led 400 police and unidentified men to attack the Christians on September 13th at 3:00 a.m. Some were beaten unconscious and had to be taken to the hospital.
The Christian leaders were charged with “illegally occupying land” and “assembling to disrupt public order.” The sentence was given at a court in Linfen City, Shanxi Province. The defendants were not allowed to respond to the charges.
Their lawyer, Li Fanping, told AFP, “I was shocked at the seriousness of the punishment. This shows that the government is intent on using the law as a tool to attack the church.”
Chinese authorities are reported to have brought tractors and excavators to destroy the unregistered house church—a large farm warehouse. It hasn’t been torn down yet, but a police guard prevented the congregation from meeting.
The Chinese regime requires religious groups to register with the Chinese Communist Party. Those who want to be independent are forced to practice their faith “underground.”