Chinese Government Continues to Target Church Leaders

Sep 30, 2022 | VoM

The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is actively seeking to silence pastors and other influential believers through false accusations, unfounded charges and imprisonment.

In addition to Pastor Wang Yi, countless other Christian leaders in China are imprisoned or have recently been released from prison. These three cases are representative of the persecution endured by those who proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ in communist China.

Zhao Huaiguo

Zhao Huaiguo, pastor of an unregistered church called Bethel House in Hunan province, has been in prison since 2020. Authorities arrested him in April of that year, charging him with “inciting subversion of state power” for illegally preaching and distributing Christian pamphlets.

Zhao’s two government-appointed lawyers were able to mitigate the charges but chose not to plead “not guilty” on his behalf. The prosecutor suggested that the judge sentence him to 18 months in prison.

The pastor’s indictment alleged that he had used internet censorship circumvention software to view overseas websites, had recommended the software to church members, had published poetry that criticised the government, and had shared social media posts about COVID-19. The CCP considered these actions a threat to China’s national security.

On 14 March 2021, the Zhangjiajie National Security Bureau detained Zhao again for subverting the state. About a month later, when security bureau officials raided his home, they confiscated 500 religious books. Authorities have repeatedly rejected the lawyer that Zhao’s family appointed for him, and the pastor remains in government detention.

Fu XuanJuan

Four employees of a company that produced digital Bible players were arrested for their production and distribution roles within the company. Fu Xuanjuan, Deng Tianyong, Han Li and Feng Qunchao, employees of Shenzhen Tree of Life Technology Development, were arrested on 2 July 2020 and convicted of “illegal business operation”. In January 2022, a court dismissed the Christians’ appeal and sustained the original verdict.

The company produced portable digital players that contained a narrated recording of the Bible, as well as sermons and hymns. The players were especially useful for elderly Christians, but Chinese authorities viewed the players with suspicion.

The company’s owner, Fu Xuanjuan, was sentenced to six years in prison. Her evangelist husband, Deng Tianyong, who managed content for the digital Bible players, received a three-year sentence. Feng Qunchao, a technician, was sentenced to two and a half years in prison. The company’s receptionist and accountant, Han Li, received an 18-month sentence and has since been released. Deng Tianyong and Feng Qunchao are nearing the end of their sentences.

Fu Xuanjuan and Deng Tianyong’s adopted 14-year-old daughter, as well as Deng Tianyong’s widowed mother, have been cared for by church members since the arrests.

Xu Yonghai

After his 60th birthday in 2021, Pastor Xu Yonghai should have been eligible for a pension. However, because he has spent time in prison, communist officials denied him his retirement benefits, and he essentially lives under house arrest.

Xu Yonghai was arrested in 2003 for speaking out on behalf of persecuted Christians. He served two years in prison on false charges of spying and illegally providing national intelligence to other countries. Since his release in 2006, he has led an unregistered church in Beijing that is frequently harassed by communist authorities, and he remains unemployed, under surveillance and under house arrest.

Police have regularly harassed and intimidated Xu Yonghai and members of his church. In January 2014, authorities entered his home and detained more than 10 Christians for gathering illegally. In October 2016, police again came to Xu Yonghai’s home, accusing the Christians gathered there of participating in illegal religious activities.

In June 2017, police interrupted a Bible study at Xu Yonghai’s home and demanded to see every participant’s ID. After asking the police officers why they needed to see everyone’s identification in a private residence, the pastor called the national security office as police continued to intimidate the Christians.

“I said that all our gatherings are open to the public and that the members are regulars,” Xu Yonghai said. “Even the police are quite familiar with us. I said that since we only had a few people, there was no need to check our documents. It was unnecessary to generate trouble.”

On 27 August 2018, the pastor wrote an open letter, stating, “I became a ‘sensitive’ person because I am a Christian, because I proclaim the gospel and because I safeguard Christians’ freedom of religion. I am always placed under house arrest and not allowed to get out of my place on every sensitive date. Police even follow me if I go out to buy food.”

During the Olympics in Beijing, police took Xu Yonghai and other members of his church to a hotel, where they were held until the Olympic Games had ended.