|Christians gather for worship at a
house church. Christians such as these
are often targeted for their faith.
(Photo: China Aid)
(Liaoyang, Liaoning—March 7, 2017) Further details have been released regarding the sentencing of five Christians leaders for the purchase and sale of Christian books in China’s northeastern Liaoning province.
On Feb. 22, the defendants, four women and one man, all members of Chaoguang Church, were sentenced for allegedly buying and selling “officially forbidden Christian devotional books.”
Of them, pastor Li Dongzhe, and his wife, Piao Shunnan, received seven years with a fine of 100,000 Yuan ($14,500 USD). The church’s accountant, Zhao Chunxia, and a secretary, Li Yuan, were given five years and fined 70,000 Yuan ($10,200 USD). Another member, Shi Jinyan, was sentenced to three years with a fine of 50,000 Yuan ($7,300 USD). Chaoguang Church itself received a fine of 200,000 Yuan ($29,000 USD).
Chaoguang Church, also known as Chaoguang Village Christian Gathering Place, is an officially registered church within China’s government-run Protestant church system, the Three-Self Patriotic Movement. Despite the church’s registered status, the courts declared that the Christians illegally conducted business because they intended to make a profit while selling Christian literature.
Following the conviction, Chaoguang Church has closed down.
The convictions of registered church members is a change from the norm in such cases, as charges like “illegal business operations” are normally levied against attendees of unregistered house churches in an attempt to limit their freedom
“Christian convicts of crimes like ‘illegal business operations’ and ‘participating in cults’ are [usually] brought against house church members,” Ren Quanniu, a lawyer who often works on such cases, said. “[The government] simply comes up with random legal excuses to detain them. I’ve heard of a similar case, in which the believers were arrested because of illegally publishing religious materials.”
China Aid exposes such abuses in order to stand in solidarity with persecuted Christians and promote religious freedom, human rights, and rule of law.