The decision confirms that in Xi Jinping’s China independent house churches will not be tolerated.
by Massimo Introvigne
Bitter Winter has followed the tragic story of Pastor Wang Yi and his Early Rain Covenant Church as it unfolded during the last year. On December 9, 2018, the Early Rain Covenant Church in Chengdu, the capital of southwestern China’s Sichuan Province, was forcibly shut down, and nearly 100 members of the congregation were arrested. The church leader, pastor Wang Yi, was accused of “inciting subversion of state power.” His books were banned throughout China.
Bitter Winter learned that arrested members of the Early Rain Covenant Church were tortured to extract information from them and make them falsely testify against pastor Wang Yi, providing “evidence” that he “colluded with foreigners to incite subversion of state power.” Some were reportedly drugged with unknown substances. While they were in a state of mental confusion, the police extracted false testimony from them and recorded videos to use as evidence.
The fabricated evidence has now been used. Pastor Wang Yi was tried on December 26 before the Chengdu Intermediate People’s Court and the decision was announced on December 30. The Court was surrounded by armed police and both relatives of the Pastor and Early Rain Church members were prevented from entering.
Pastor Wang Yi has been sentenced to a term of nine years in jail, suspension of political rights for three years, and confiscation of his personal assets, for both “inciting subversion of state power” and “illegal trade.” The second accusation refers to the fact that Early Rain Covenant Church printed and sold some religious books.
The decision confirms that, after the New Regulation on Religious Affairs came into force in 2018, there is a systematic program aimed at cracking down on house churches. They are no longer tolerated as part of a Gray Market in the system of Chinese religion. Either they join the government-controlled Three-Self Church, or they are suppressed. This is Xi Jinping’s China. As Pastor Wang Yi said himself, the persecution of Christians under Xi Jinping is “the most horrendous evil in Chinese society.”