Authorities took Pastor Li Guozhi, better known as Yang Hua, into custody after a raid on his church in central Guizhou Province in December 2015. In a letter to his wife, Wang Hongwu, Pastor Yang encourages her to focus more on God than on the ‘noise’ of humanity.
‘Our wonderful God, our Lord forever’, he writes. ‘Who can guess his wisdom and mystery? Our faith is built on his words (he never changes and never does wrong; this is the unchangeable maxim). Sometimes, somebody will decide something by guessing and then testing [their guess], but we don’t. We listen more to God and less to human beings.’
After describing how doctors applying sulphur ointment were able to heal the scabies he had suffered all over his body, he tells her not to worry about his health. ‘The fatty liver disease was diagnosed in prison’, he writes. ‘The suffering is bearable. The Lord has grace. The canker sore has not returned since May of this year. Thank God.’
Pastor Yang was initially arrested for ‘obstructing justice’ and ‘gathering a crowd to disturb public order’ after he tried to stop authorities from confiscating his computer hard drive. He was sentenced to two consecutive, five-day administrative detention sentences for each charge. But, when he was supposed to be released, his wife saw authorities forcing the blindfolded pastor into an unlicensed vehicle.
She subsequently learned that Pastor Yang’s charge had been changed to ‘illegally possessing state secrets,’ and that he was being transferred to another centre to serve a criminal detention sentence.
After a month of no word about her husband, who had disappeared into official custody, Wang received a notice in January announcing her husband’s formal arrest for ‘divulging state secrets’, a press statement read. Initially, officials refused to allow Chen Jiangang and Zhao Yonglin, Yang’s lawyers, to meet with their client. Wang was also kept from seeing her husband. Eventually, however, Chen and Zhao received permission to confer with their client and Wang was able to correspond with her husband via letter.
In his letter, Pastor Yang exhorts Wang and the church to encourage and give hope to each other.
‘Never be dejected and despondent, always look up at our Lord, and always keep the spiritual life above the chaos of the real environment’, he wrote. ‘Rest in God’s arms. “Some rely on chariots, some on horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord.” Be upright and take care. Be prepared for the rest of the road. “I will go with you.” If the Lord doesn’t allow it, not a single hair [of your head] will drop to the floor.’
In Wenzhou, Zhejiang Province, a pastor who had been jailed and released lost his position when state-run agencies revoked his licence to preach and expelled him from leadership.
The Zhejiang Provincial China Christian Council and the Zhejiang Provincial Three- Self Patriotic Movement enacted the orders against Zhang Chongzhu in late October, outraging area Christians who suspected that the government terminated him to keep people from attending unregistered house churches, the group reported.
Zhang had been ‘placed under “residential surveillance in a designated location” – otherwise known as a ‘black jail’ – in September 2015’, China Aid reported. ‘On 5 February, he was criminally detained for “stealing, spying, buying, or illegally providing state secrets or intelligence to entities outside China”.’
Spreading religion illegally
In China’s restive Xinjiang Province, three Christians were detained in early November for ‘spreading religion illegally’ and ‘gathering a mob to disturb public order’ after police dispersed a meeting they had organised.
Police dispersed a group of Han and Uyghur Christians who had gathered for Bible training at Xinfeng Church and the event’s planners – Li Rong, Liu Peijin, Wang Yubiao, Wang Encheng, Wang Hailong, David and Gu Li – were taken into police custody. Li, Liu, and a Christian identified only as Wang were handed 15-day administrative detention sentences, while the others were released.
‘In the past two months’, the group said in a press statement, ‘Xinjiang authorities detained or arrested dozens of Christians for holding house church gatherings, including three Christians in Wensu County, two people from Xinhe County, three people from Baicheng County, seven people from Akesu, two Christians in Yanqi County, two individuals in Hejing County, and 16 people in the Kuerle region, 13 of whom were also physically attacked.’