A pastor in China has been sentenced to nine years in prison after being accused of ‘inciting subversion of state power’ and ‘illegally operating a business.’
Pastor Wang Yi was arrested in December 2018 along with dozens of churchgoers and leaders of the Early Rain Covenant Church, one of China’s largest unregistered protestant “house” churches.
China’s constitution guarantees religious freedom, but since President Xi Jinping took office six years ago, the government has tightened restrictions on religions seen as a challenge to the authority of the ruling Communist Party, Reuter’s reports.
According to a statement from the church, which was posted on social media, Pastor Wang Yi was secretly tried on December 26, 2019, at the Chengdu Intermediate People’s Court. Four days after the trial, the court found Pastor Wang guilty and sentenced him to nine-years imprisonment. He was also fined 50,000 RMB.
In the statement, Early Rain Covenant Church insisted their pastor was innocent and claimed the charges are part of the unjust persecution against the Chinese house church.
“From the perspective of society, he is exercising his freedoms of religion and of speech, rights granted to Chinese citizens by the Constitution and laws of China,” the church said.
“The books printed by the church have never been printed for profit but only for the pastoring of believers and for the spreading of the gospel. He has never conducted so-called ‘illegal business operations.'”
The church also denied the charge of ‘inciting subversion to state power’, claiming Pastor Wang taught his congregation to submit to authorities in power, in accordance with Scripture (see Romans 13).
“It is widely known in the Chinese church that he has always taught that Christians should submit to authorities in power in accordance with Scripture. He has taught that even when the church is being persecuted, Christians should be willing to submit to the government’s physical restrictions of them as well as to the depravation of their property. He has never said or done anything that amounts to ‘inciting to subvert state power’,” the church said.
The church went on to offer an ‘exhortation and protest’ to Pastor Wang’s severe sentence, urging officials to repent and believe the gospel.
“Do you government officials not know that this is a sin against God? Do you not know that this is an abuse of your authority (Rom. 13:3)? Even so, we do not hate you. On the contrary, our merciful and righteous God wants us to love you and to pray for you.
“We desire that those public officials and law enforcement officers who are involved in this case would quickly repent and believe in the Lord, that you would know the atonement and forgiveness of sins which the Lord Jesus extends to all through his suffering on the cross, and that you would obtain eternal life and hope.”
The full statement from the church can be read below: