The Chinese government is fining two house church pastors more than $1 million in donations it described as “illegal income ‘’ – the entire amount of the offerings collected from their congregation.
Pastor Su Tianfu and a fellow pastor of Huoshi Church, Yang Hua, battled with Chinese authorities for seven months before the communist regime insisted that they turn over their donations.
“Both Su and Yang filed several appeals, arguing that they had only used the money on the church and therefore, it could not be considered ‘illegal income,’ but they were all denied,” China Aid announced. “In this final verdict, officials dissected Yang’s arguments against the legality of the fine and dismissed them, defending their original stance. Their decision is final.”
Eradicating Communism’s ‘rival’
Even though all church matters were disclosed to state authorities, the government will not tolerate the Chinese people giving their allegiance and support to another entity outside of the Communist Party.
“Since its founding in 2009, Huoshi Church maintained an open relationship with the Chinese government, informing officials of all their religious activities in order to follow Chinese law,” the Christian group serving the persecuted Church reported. “Eventually, authorities started arbitrarily targeting it, and subjected it to multiple raids in 2015 – and its members to detention and arrest.”
Soon, the church was treated as if it was orchestrating a government takeover.
“On Dec. 9, 2015, officials took Yang into custody for protecting a church hard drive from confiscation,” China Aid informed. “A day later, they sentenced him to two consecutive, five-day administrative detention sentences for ‘the crime of obstructing justice’ and ‘gathering a crowd to disturb public order.’ However, when his wife came to collect him on Dec. 20, 2015 – his release date – she saw him being herded into an unlicensed vehicle and putting on a black hood [and] she later learned that the government had transferred him into criminal detention for ‘illegally possessing state secrets.’ They arrested him on Jan. 22, 2016, changing the charge once more to ‘divulging state secrets.’”
The persecution was about much more than money, as government officials were infuriated that Yang was drawing the hearts and allegiance away from the ruling Communist Party – making him physically pay for his “transgressions” against the state.
“For more than a year, Yang endured abuse at the hands of officials, suffering repeated torture as his prosecutors tried to force a confession from him, threatening to harm his family and kill him as they applied immense pressure to his toes,” the Christian nonprofit recounted.
Calling out Communists
China Aid President and Founder Bob Fu considers the Chinese court’s two-and-a-half-year sentencing of Yang to prison – delivered on January 5 – as ruthless and unwarranted.
“[Yang’s treatment and sentencing is] nothing but purely barbaric religious persecution!” Fu exclaimed.
Zhao Yonglin – an attorney based in Shandong, where the persecution is taking place – alleges that officials from China’s Communist Party have viciously abused Yang in order to extract a false confession.
"The so-called state secret was a document prepared by a temporary city administrative task force calling for the destruction of Living Stone Church,” Zhao asserted at the time, according to The Christian Post (CP). “But the decision itself was illegal and should have been exposed instead."
One of Yang’s other attorneys, Chen Jiangang, calls what is taking place a new brand of political persecution waged by the Chinese government.
"Even a day in jail is too much for an innocent person," Chen assured Radio Free Asia. "I have only one thing to say about this. This isn't a judgment: it's persecution. This is a political case that has nothing to do with the law or the truth."
Devastating anti-Christian trend
Fu also condemned the Chinese military police after it detonated explosives on Jan. 9 inside an evangelical megachurch, Golden Lampstand Church, in Linfen, causing $2.6 million in damage.
"The repeated persecution of Golden Lampstand Church demonstrates that the Chinese government has no respect for religious freedom or human rights," Fu proclaimed, according to another CP report. "China Aid calls on the international community to openly condemn the bombing of this church building and urge the Chinese government to fairly compensate the Christians who paid for it and immediately cease these alarming demolitions of churches."
Witness inside prison and out
Yang’s wife, Wang Hongwu – who has two sons with him ages 6 and 15 – was banned from attending her husband’s trial.
She was not informed about the verdict against her husband until well after it was issued.
Even though the Chinese government locked her husband up in prison after destroying his church, Wang is thankful and proud that he continues to be a Christlike witness behind bars.
“I was told that he is very popular inside prison,” Wang shared last year after Yang’s sentencing, according to SCMP.com. “Most inmates don’t know his name, but they call him Jesus. That must be all he talks about inside.”