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China's protestant pastor jailed for 9 years over subversion of state power

ANI | Updated: Dec 30, 2019 22:05 IST

Beijing [China], Dec 30 (ANI): A Chinese court on Monday sentenced a Christian pastor of a protestant church to nine years in prison for subversion of state power and illegal business operations.
Wang Yi, the founder of Early Rain Covenant Church, was detained last December with more than 100 members of his congregation as part of government crackdown, New York Times reported after citing an official announcement by the court located in China's southwestern city of Chengdu.
While most of Wang's parishioners, including his wife, Jiang Rong, were eventually released, the pastor never re-emerged from detention.
As part of his sentence, he will also be stripped of his political rights for three years and have 50,000 renminbi, or almost $7,200, of his assets seized, according to the statement.
Wang had become known for taking high-profile positions on politically sensitive issues, including forced abortions and the massacre that crushed the Tiananmen Square democracy movement in 1989.
More recently, the pastor had also emerged as a critic of the authoritarian state policies of Chinese President Xi Jinping.
This came after Beijing in November sentenced another church leader, Qin Defu, to four years in prison for the charge of illegal business operations.
While the charge of inciting to subvert state power reflects Wang's political views, the illegal business operations highlight a more widespread and troubling problem for the government as his Early Rain Church no longer remains a small congregation but has transformed into a large and sophisticated organisation.
Therefore, it should be noted that Wang's arrest is part of a broader effort to subdue all social organisations that operate independently of the government.
In 2017, the government passed a law sharply curtailing the rights of nongovernmental organisations. That same year it enacted new regulations on religious life. In both cases, groups were ordered to register with the government and cut all foreign ties.
Around the same time, the government began a policy of detaining more than a million Muslims in what it calls re-education camps.
The vast majority of China's independent churches have been untouched by the recent crackdown, but observers said that the attack on high-profile churches is a signal to others to reduce their size and avoid politics.
In addition to closing Early Rain the government last year also shuttered Zion Church in Beijing and Rongguili in Guangzhou for operating without a licence after dozens of officials stormed its premises.
Earlier that year, unauthorised versions of the Bible were pulled from Chinese online retailers. (ANI)