(Chengdu, Sichuan Province—April 9, 2021) On April 6, Elder Zhang Chunlei of Ren’ai Reformed Church, detained since March 16, met with his lawyer for the first time. Initially, as Chinese Communist Party (CCP) authorities detained Elder Zhang on administrative detention for 11 days since March 17, they should have released him March 28. Now, however, as CCP officials have put him under criminal detention for a “fraud” charge, Elder Zhang’s family reported that they do not yet know the length of time he will be imprisoned.
During Elder Zhang’s detention, CCP authorities raided his home and confiscated his computer and other electronic devices. They will likely use information from these items to fabricate a crime against him. One close Christian friend of Elder Zhang said: “Usually, officials force Christians to compromise by lure or force. Because Elder Zhang, an unyielding man, did not compromise his faith when in administrative detention, authorities likely placed him in criminal detention. If he still refuses to yield to the CCP’s coercive tactics during his criminal detention period, they may [as typical] fabricate some charges against him.”
After the CCP instituted the new “Regulations on Religious Affairs” in early 2018, as many articles infringe on religious freedom, some house churches refused to conform to its unconstitutional regulations.
Examples of the regulations’ conflict with Christianity, include:
- “Article 7: For the establishment, modification and cancellation of the religious groups, registration formalities shall be undergone in accordance with the relevant provisions of the state on the administration of social organizations.” It also specifies that the registration of religious groups must follow the rules of article 4 and article 5. However, article 4 contains rules that violate religious freedom.
- “Article 4: Religious groups, religious institutions, premises for religious activities and religious citizens shall comply with the Constitution, laws, regulations and rules, practice the core socialist values, and maintain national integrity, ethnic solidarity, religious harmony and social stability.”
The phrase, “Practice the core socialist values,” means practicing the ideology of the atheistic Marxism, which critically conflicts with the core Christian belief. Some house churches, especially reformed Presbyterian churches, refused to compromise their belief and register their churches with the religious affairs bureau. In 2018, Pastor Wang Yi initiated a joint-signature campaign regarding this disaccord, “A joint statement by pastors: A declaration for the sake of the Christian faith.” A total of 458 ministers signed the statement to confirm their support. National security agents summoned and threatened Elder Zhang, one of the first Christian leaders who signed this proclamation, as well as more than half of the other signatories. CCP officials have also raided, suppressed, and banned the supporting house churches.
On December 09, 2018, CCP authorities initiated massive arrests at Chengdu Early Rain Covenant Church, detaining more than 100 Christians, including Pastor Wang, elders, deacons, and co-workers. After the crackdown, some ministers, including Elder Zhang, Pastor Yang Hua of Huoshi Church, and Pastor Jin Tianming of Beijing Shouwang Church, sent statements expressing their willingness to be charged with the same accusation as Pastor Wang. Similarly, before Pastor Wang’s arrest, he stated publicly that he would willingly accept the same charges as other ministers.
Brothers and sisters, please continue to pray for Elder Zhang Chunlei.Please pray for God to give him peace when he is suffering from the persecution, and temporarily pause his service for the Lord to let him rest.Also pray for God to protect him and let him leave the prison safely to continue serving God’s Church.