Three Christians were sentenced to jail time two years after they were protecting a government-approved church’s cross from being torn down in Zhejiang.
In March 2013, Zhejiang provincial government launched a three-year (2013–2015) “Three Rectifications and One Demolition” campaign to address “illegal structures.” In fact, the campaign targeted religious sites, Christian church buildings in particular. In 2014, the authorities in Lishui city in Zhejiang tore down more than 400 crosses. The Dongcheng Church, a government-controlled Three-Self Protestant church, was the only remaining with a cross.
In May 2015, the church was targeted again and thus began a battle between authorities and the believers that lasted over a month. While the members of the church had mobilized nearly 900 to protect the structure, numbers on the other side had swelled to 1000 individuals by June 18. The cross was taken down and the top floor of the church, which, according to authorities “violated the construction laws,” was demolished, causing hundreds of thousands of yuan in damage.
That day, the police arrested and detained 12 people on the charge of “obstructing government administration.” The couple in charge of the church was arrested a day before that as well.
Three of the arrested – Zhou Long, He Mingliang, and Ye Weiping – were released on bail pending trial. In the middle of June 2017, the police summoned the four Christians and forced them to sign their bail extension. Their case was subsequently heard at People’s Court as well as the Intermediate People’s Court in Liandu district. The courts handed a one-year sentence to Zhou Long, Ye Weiping, and He Mingliang. Mr. Zhou also received three years of probation while the other two received one year of probation each.
The group has since appealed against the sentences but has been unsuccessful. As per internal reports, during the appeals, when Ye Weiping’s wife, younger sister, and daughter (all Christians) were arrested detained for ten days.
Reported by Lin Yijiang