- Chinese authorities in the town of Chengdu arrested Pastor Wang Yi, his wife and more than 100 members of his congregation Sunday.
- Wang and his wife have been charged with “inciting subversion of state power,” while other church leaders face serious but less harsh charges.
- Wang’s arrest and that of his congregants shows a marked increase in the severity of China’s crackdown on unregistered churches.
Chinese authorities reportedly charged an evangelical pastor and his wife with “inciting subversion of state power” Wednesday, for which they face potentially 15 years in prison.
Chinese police in the town of Chengdu arrested Wang Yi of Early Rain Covenant Church, his wife Jiang Rong and more than 100 members of his congregation Sunday after Wang published a manifesto accusing President Xi Jinping of instituting “Caesar worship” and calling Christians to civil disobedience.
The independent church’s leaders face charges of illegally operating a business and illegally publishing religious material, and Wang and his wife face the harsher charge of subverting the state’s authority, reported The New York Times. (RELATED: Beijing Arrests Bravest Pastor In China And 100 Congregants)
Escalated. At least ten are confirmed for criminal detention including pastor Wang Yi and his wife Jiang Rong both of whom are charged for “inciting subversion Of State power.”2 of the criminal detention notice including pastor Wang Yi’s wife Jiang Rong and Deacon Tan Defu. pic.twitter.com/ieNm4a773e
— Bob Fu傅希秋 (@BobFu4China) December 13, 2018
Photos of Jiang’s detention notice surfaced on social media Thursday. The charge against her and Wang carries a maximum sentence of 15 years imprisonment and is often used against political dissidents and those criticize the government.
Chinese Communist authorities’ arrest of Jiang and his wife, and their closure of the church, indicates an increasingly severe crackdown against unregistered churches. The church’s closure was the latest in a series of churches that the government has either sealed off or destroyed.
Authorities claim the church violated China’s regulations concerning houses of worship and religious institutions, which includes a requirement that such institutions register with the government and submit to Beijing’s policy of sinicization — that is to conform to Xi’s and the Communist Party’s vision of a homogeneous Chinese culture. Authorities use the regulations not only to crack down on unregistered churches, but also to prevent Christians from attending services in certain regions.
“We’ve had crackdowns before but not on this scale or with this brutality,” Fredrik Fällman, scholar of Chinese Christianity and professor at the University of Gothenburg, told TheNYT. “They want to show they’re in control and you can’t do what you like.”
Wang was hailed by a fellow minister as “the bravest pastor in China” after he publicly criticized Xi’s campaign of sinicization and the religious regulations implemented in February. Wang, in his manifesto published the day before his arrest, denounced Xi’s efforts to coerce Christians into worshiping the state as “morally incompatible with the Christian faith and with all those who uphold freedom of the mind and thought.”
He also openly denounced abortion and lambasted the Chinese parliament for lifting term limits for Xi and placing Xi’s name in the constitution, among other injustices.
Wang drafted a declaration in September with instructions that his church publish it in the event he was detained for over 48 hours. Wang wrote in the declaration that, while he accepts the rule of the Communist regime over China, believing that God has allowed them to rule as He does all rulers and authorities, he also believes their persecution of the church is unlawful and wicked.
“I believe that this Communist regime’s persecution against the church is a greatly wicked, unlawful action. As a pastor of a Christian church, I must denounce this wickedness openly and severely. The calling that I have received requires me to use non-violent methods to disobey those human laws that disobey the Bible and God. My Savior Christ also requires me to joyfully bear all costs for disobeying wicked laws,” Wang wrote.
Wang also clarified he does not believe his role as a pastor and as a Christian is to change the government or legal institutions, but simply to submit to and preach Christ.
“Regardless of what crime the government charges me with, whatever filth they fling at me, as long as this charge is related to my faith, my writings, my comments, and my teachings, it is merely a lie and temptation of demons. I categorically deny it. I will serve my sentence, but I will not serve the law. I will be executed, but I will not plead guilty,” he said.
“There is only eternal faith. There is no eternal power … Jesus is the Christ, son of the eternal, living God. He died for sinners and rose to life for us. He is my king and the king of the whole earth yesterday, today, and forever. I am his servant, and I am imprisoned because of this. I will resist in meekness those who resist God, and I will joyfully violate all laws that violate God’s laws,” he added.
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