Fuyang Intermediate People’s Court overturns lower court’s sentence for Pastor Sun Yongyao, pastor of forcibly demolished church

Church of Pastor Sun Yongyao being demolished in November 2019. 
(Photo: ChinaAid)

(Funan, Anhui Province—Dec. 22, 2020) On December 21, ChinaAid received the news that last week, the Fuyang Intermediate People’s Court had overturned the Funan People’s Court three-and-a-half-year prison sentence for Pastor Sun Yongyao.* Pastor Sun’s legal defense team, Wang Cheng, Xiang Li, Xu Weijin, and Guo Zhendong had successfully resisted Chinese Communist Party (CCP) tactics to compromise their defense. In response to their appeal, advocating Pastor Sun’s innocence, the higher court ordered that his case be retried. This court ruled the local court’s original verdict invalid due to it being based on partially unclear facts and insufficient evidence. 

The Funan County Three-self Patriotic Movement Committee owns the property (6,000 square meters or approximately 1.5 acres) of Funan County Christian Church, where Pastor Sun served as a minister. In the past, the now-demolished church could accommodate 3,000 believers, with members and visitors filling most seats during Sunday services. In November 2018, Funan County government authorities reportedly sent a notice to the church, proclaiming that as the property fell into the range of an urban transformation project—Funan County would expropriate the church’s land.

According to church staff, government officials failed to send any legitimate paperwork to the church before the forced demolition. On the afternoon of October 18, 2019, the local government commissioned a SWAT team and anti-riot police to forcibly demolish the church building. As members were not able to remove any possessions, the demolition destroyed many items the church regularly employed.

Police criminally detained Pastor Geng Yimin, Pastor Sun Yongyao, and several other staff members the next day, October 19, 2019, charging them with “gathering crowds to disrupt social order.”

Throughout his detention, Pastor Sun Yongyao, whose name means “eternal glory,” has practiced “prison theology,” sharing the gospel. This year, after reciting and explaining Bible verses to two inmates sentenced to death, they both believed in Jesus. 

In and out of prison, Pastor Sun lives his life based on his motto which includes the following four principles:

  1. Persevere and remain silent [do not complain];
  2. Be willing to suffer for the Lord; 
  3. Believe in and trust Jesus;  
  4. Pray and wait.

Pastor Sun living by these four principles inside and outside prison walls contributed to clear facts as well as more than sufficient evidence to convince his legal defense team to petition the higher court on his behalf. While he awaits his forthcoming retrial, Pastor Sun preserves and remains silent [does not complain]. He willingly suffers for the Lord. Just as he encourages others, Pastor Su believes in and trusts Jesus. He prays and waits….

Fuyang City Court’s verdict, page 1. 
(Photo: ChinaAid
Fuyang City Court’s verdict, page 2. 
(Photo: ChinaAid

*The lower court had also sentenced two of Pastor Sun’s coworkers, Brother Geng Yimin, director of the Church’s Governing Committee (sentenced to three years), and Brother Dai Chunlei (received a 10-month sentence with one year reprieve).

Wait on the Lord; 
Be of good courage, 
And He shall strengthen your heart; 
Wait, I say, on the Lord.
                                        ~ Psalm 27:14

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