|Ezhou at night
(Ezhou, Hubei Province—November 30, 2021) Pastor Hao
Zhiwei of Egangqiao Church has been in custody for two years and four months
since her arrest in July 2019. The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) charged her
with “fraud” for collecting tithes and offerings. Her attorney, Si Weijiang,
claimed that this might be the first case in China where a house church pastor
was accused of fraud for preaching the gospel.
Attorney Si Weijiang disclosed that Moses—Pastor Hao’s
youngest son attending elementary school— currently suffers from severe
depression. Paul, the oldest son, could take care of his brother a few years
ago after authorities arrested Hao, but Paul started college last year. Moses dropped
out this semester and began locking himself in a room.
These reports broke Pastor Hao’s heart. In her two-year detainment, she endured acute pancreatitis four times which nearly ended
her life. Her health continued to deteriorate after losing over 50 pounds, but
her faith remained strong, according to her attorney. Pastor Hao holds a strong
belief that she will be acquitted.
Pastor Hao Zhiwei is 50 years old. She graduated from
South Central Seminary in 2001 and Ezhou’s Three-Self Church offered her the
minister’s position due to her excellent preaching. However, she disagreed with
the Religion Bureau’s governance on churches, so they rejected her pastor license
application in 2007. The Ezhou Three-Self Church was shut down and converted
into a house church, later called Egangqiao Church. Hao Zhiwei pastored the church for 18 years.
In early 2018, the local government required that
Egangqiao Church be demolished. The congregation refused. The local Religion
Bureau issued a notice, asking Pastor Hao to cooperate with the government and
move. Hao did not communicate with officials in a timely manner due to the
grief of losing her husband to liver cancer. On July 31, 2019, authorities
arrested her on fraud charges for collecting tithe and offering. The CCP demolished Egangqiao Church in August.
When the 18-year-old church was surrounded by barbed wire, some believers went
through the wire net and worshipped inside.
On July 29, 2020, Attorney Si Weijiang met with Pastor
Hao, and she told him that she often woke from laughter at the detention center
because of God’s presence. The peace in her heart is touching to her attorney.
However, Pastor Hao looks worse than the last year. Local courts initially
scheduled her trial for August 2020, but it has been postponed again and again
due to COVID-19.
~Yu Bing, ChinaAid Association Contributing Reporter
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