Pastor Wang Yi being arrested at his home in Chengdu, China in 2018
Editor’s note: Over 100 members of Early Rain Covenant Church in Chengdu, China, were arrested beginning Sunday, December 9, 2018. Among those taken away were Pastor Wang Yi, senior pastor of Early Rain, and his wife, Jiang Rong. Wang Yi is one of China’s most prominent protestant pastors, a respected intellectual, a legal scholar, a renowned human rights advocate, and a church movement leader. His Early Rain Covenant Church is one of the best known unregistered “house” churches in China. Under President Xi Jinping, China’s increasing crackdown on religious freedom is escalating with increased punishments for “unofficial churches” like Early Rain. This story is being reported by South China Post, Reuters, NPR, and New York Times. This is a developing story. Report confirmations, corrections, and new information will be added to this post below when available.
On Monday morning (Beijing time), December 30, 2019, the Chinese government sentenced pastor Wang Yi to nine years in prison on charges of inciting subversion of state power. According to the statement posted on the website of the Chengdu court in the western province of Sichuan, Wang Yi has also been stripped of his political rights to vote or be elected for three years and 50,000 yuan (460 £5/$7,160 USD) of his personal property was confiscated (this fine allows the government to seize all his books, computers, etc. legally).
“Today’s verdict makes a mockery of China’s supposed religious freedoms,” Amnesty International China researcher Patrick Poon said in a statement. “Wang Yi was merely practicing his religion and peacefully standing up for human rights in China. This nine-year sentence is appalling and unjust. Wang Yi is a prisoner of conscience and must be immediately and unconditionally released.”
Today’s verdict makes a mockery of China’s supposed religious freedoms. This nine-year sentence is appalling and unjust. Wang Yi is a prisoner of conscience and must be immediately and unconditionally released.
“This is a pure case of unjust religious persecution against a peaceful preacher of a Chinese Reformed church.” said Dr. Bob Fu of China Aid. According to Fu, “The 9 years sentence against pastor Wang Yi is the longest sentence to an ethnic Chinese house church leader in more than a decade … I think at least part of the reason the regime is so harsh against pastor Wang Yi is that it is really afraid of his national and international ministry impact especially the growing influence of the reformed evangelical movement he is leading nationwide in China.”
In 2009, the Chinese government sentenced Nobel peace prize winning dissident Liu Xiaobo to 11 years in prison on similar charges of inciting subversion of state power. Liu died in prison in 2017 after he was denied permission to leave China for treatment for late-stage liver cancer.
China’s constitution guarantees religious freedom, but since Xi Jinping became president six years ago, the Chinese government has tightened restrictions on religions seen as a challenge to the authority of the Communist party .
Crackdowns on Protestant and Catholic underground churches are increasing with new legislation and harsher punishments for church and religious education practices not sanctioned by authorities. As a result, the Chinese government is closing churches, jailing church leaders, shutting down Christian schools, and even rewriting Scripture.
“This grave sentence demonstrates the Xi’s regime is determined to be enemy to the universal values and religious freedom, we call upon the international community to stand up to CCP regime and hold this evil regime accountable”, said Fu.
This grave sentence demonstrates the Xi’s regime is determined to be enemy to the universal values and religious freedom, we call upon the international community to stand up to CCP regime and hold this evil regime accountable.
Three days after the raid on Early Rain Church on December 12, 2018, the church issued a written statement that pastor Wang Yi had prepared several months in advance entitled “My Declaration of Faithful Disobedience” in which he expressed his determination to defend religious freedom.
Wang Yi concludes his statements with these words:
“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 … I firmly believe that Christ has called me to carry out this faithful disobedience through a life of service, under this regime that opposes the gospel and persecutes the church. This is the means by which I preach the gospel, and it is the mystery of the gospel which I preach. The Lord’s servant, Wang Yi”
PS: Here are several other key papers by Pastor Wang Yi and other persecuted church leaders in China now available in Chinese, English, and several languages.
What can you do?
2) Stay Informed
3) Protest this gross injustice by letting your voice be known to everyone you think could help stop it, especially your elected leaders.
Important: One of the most realistic and helpful things you can do is call (not email) your elected representatives in the House and Senate and share your concern regarding the Chinese governments human rights violations against its own people. Learn how to call your elected officials here: https://www.usa.gov/elected-officials
4) Remember “The only thing necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.”
Members of Early Rain Covenant Church in Chengdu, China, gather and pray in 2018.