CCP charges Chinese Protestant house church pastor with swindling church offerings

Pastor Hao Zhiwei (left) and her late husband.
(Photo: China Aid)
(Ezhou, Hubei province—Oct. 17, 2020) Chinese Communist Party (CCP) authorities arrested Pastor Hao Zhiwei in July 2019, however, she still awaits trial. Four months after Hao’s arrest, officials charged her with swindling 2.24 million yuan (US $332,850) in church offerings. CCP authorities also accused two church staff members, Hong Ying and Wang Yuanxiang, of fraud but because they “confessed,” they warranted leniency
Prosecutors have not set a trial date for Hao. Because her husband died two years ago, her two sons, one 13 years old and the other 17, have been left alone.

According to the South China Morning Post:

  • “The case is set to have a far-reaching legal impact that could see more house church pastors like Hao come under more legal scrutiny on top of the existing administrative regulations over religious affairs,” Si Weijiang, Hao’s lawyer, said.
  • Hao’s trial was originally set for January and then apparently postponed until August but there is still no notice of when it will take place. The coronavirus pandemic has also caused delays, suggesting that Hao could remain in detention for some time.
  • Hao’s 17-year-old son, who identified himself as Paul, said …“The government is indefinitely postponing the trial as they continue to look for evidence so they can frame my mother by building a fraud case against her that never existed in the first place,” Paul also said he was staying on campus at a university in eastern Zhejiang province but his 13-year-old brother lived at home in Ezhou with a part-time domestic helper.
  • … Hao graduated from the official Zhongnan Theological Seminary in 2001 and was employed as a preacher by the government-sanctioned Egangqiao Church in Ezhou in 2003. [Nevertheless, according] to the indictment document, Hao is accused of illegally ordaining herself as a pastor in 2013 without government approval. [Si argues that Hao was ordained according to house church tradition.]
Church that authorities demolished in 2019. 
(Photo: China Aid)
After authorities arrested Hao and her two co-workers, they contracted to demolish the church to make way for expansion of a steel plant. To justify destroying the church, the local religious affairs department issued a notice in July last year stating that because the church was too close to a power plant, it had to be demolished. 

Amidst the separation from his mother and the church demolition, Paul stated that he and his brother are at peace. “We have faith in God that he will never give us a trial that we cannot bear.”

Si said Hao refuses to plead guilty and if convicted, faces a minimum of 10 years in prison. He expressed concern that a conviction could set a precedent for CCP authorities to use charges of financial irregularities to prosecute other house church leaders.

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