Hefei Ganquan Church Pastor and Elder charged with fraud

Pastor Zhou Songlin and his wife Wei Shudie (Source: Internet)
Pastor Zhou Songlin and his wife Wei Shudie (Source: Internet)

(Hefei, Anhui Province – May 7, 2024) On April 27, 2024, Wei Shudie, the wife of Pastor Zhou Songlin, and Ge Yunxia, the wife of Elder Ding Zhongfu, who were arrested for their faith, issued an open letter responding to recent attacks from some believers within the church against their hiring of lawyers according to the law. After their husbands were arrested for their faith, the two wives hired lawyers according to the law and were attacked by some believers within the church, demanding that they fire the lawyers. After they refused, some believers publicly criticized them and declared their withdrawal from the church on April 13.

 

The Ganquan Church in Hefei has a history of more than 20 years since its founding and has about four to five hundred believers. Due to religious persecution, the Ganquan Church has been forced to relocate many times in the past ten years. In order to worship without disturbance, the congregation raised funds to purchase two properties to be used as places of worship. Since the church is not recognized by the government, these two properties had to be registered under the names of Elder Ding Zhongfu and two other church members. Currently, these two properties and the church’s cash flow may become evidence of “fraud”.

 

On the morning of November 30, 2023, at around 7:00 am, the Ganquan Church was raided by the local police. 16 pastors and co-workers were simultaneously searched at home by the public security without warning and taken to the police station for questioning. They were later detained on suspicion of “fraud”. Pastor Zhou Songlin, Elder Ding Zhongfu, Preacher Mao Junma, Preacher Pei Defei, and co-worker Yang Peiyun were criminally detained for 15 days. Subsequently, 14 believers were gradually released on bail pending trial. However, Pastor Zhou Songlin and Elder Ding Zhongfu remain in custody.

 

Wei Shudie, the wife of Pastor Zhou Songlin, and Ge Yunxia, the wife of Elder Ding Zhongfu, hired two Christian lawyers for their husbands. The lawyers applied to the court to read the case files multiple times, but it was not until early April this year that they were able to see the case files. The amount involved in the case included the church’s entire cash flow for decades, reaching a staggering figure. The case has now been transferred to the procuratorate. The two wives have also issued prayer requests multiple times, asking Christians to pray for their husbands, families, and the church. Many church members have also written letters and testimonies, proving that their pastors and elders are faithful, kind, and helpful, and could not possibly be “fraudsters”. 

 

However, under the government’s persecution, different voices have also emerged within the church. Since this church case occurred, church co-workers and believers have been subjected to large-scale summons and threats. Whether due to differences in theological positions or weak faith, some within the church have opposed the two wives and lawyers publicly issuing prayer requests and hiring Christian lawyers who have reported judicial personnel for violations. They demanded that the two wives change to other lawyers. The two wives were unwilling to change lawyers. Therefore, on April 13, 2024, six church members who claimed to be co-workers jointly issued an open letter titled “The Reason We Left This Church”, criticizing the two wives and the lawyers, believing that they were too confrontational with the government and not submissive to the government. The full text of the open letter is as follows:

Dear brothers and sisters, peace to you in Christ!

As we all know: On November 30, 2023, the church experienced a major setback, and 16 members were questioned. On that day, the church’s co-workers went to comfort the families and take care of their household needs. During the process of the legal team representing the case, we discovered that the prayer requests were being used by anti-China websites abroad; some core co-workers of the church accepted the lawyers’ suggestions to organize everyone to write commemorative articles and letters (taking photos and sending them to public accounts abroad), signing names, and remitting money. The above practices have brought the church and the congregation into danger.

On February 5, 2024, the church urgently convened a co-workers meeting and passed an “Announcement” for the entire congregation, expressing the church’s position and attitude. The “Announcement” represents the will of the church and also conforms to the church’s handling process when encountering major incidents. The “Announcement” is in line with the church’s political and religious stance, that is: we are Chinese Christians, and have always upheld the political and religious concept that we do not get involved in politics, do not engage with foreign entities, and adhere to the faith in accordance with the Bible. Therefore, we do not want the case of our church to be used by foreign forces (engaging with foreign entities) to achieve certain political purposes (getting involved in politics).

The method adopted by the legal team is to frequently create and generate confrontations with the government, putting the church in a state of direct confrontation with the government, which is clearly inconsistent with the church’s position and our belief. The first point of the “Announcement” is: “Regarding hiring lawyers: Because the lawyers originally hired, when representing cases involving our church, adopted solutions that are contrary to the position of our church, making it difficult to continue effective cooperation, the church has already suggested that the relevant pastor and elder family members dismiss the lawyers and switch to lawyers who are in line with the position of our church.”

The clients in this case should obey the church’s position and decision, and according to the requirements of the “Announcement”, dismiss the lawyers who do not conform to the church’s position. However, it was recently discovered that the clients in this case are still using lawyers who violate our faith principles. Without the church’s permission, the lawyer took it upon themselves to maliciously report the case-handling personnel of the relevant department, intensifying the confrontation between the church and the government. This action has caused the church “represented” by the lawyer to go against the position stated in the previously issued “Announcement”, becoming a group of people who are inconsistent and lack integrity.

Our decision:

Our faith principle is to establish a church with Christ as the head. The decision made by a small number of people on behalf of the church has violated our original faith intentions and the spirit of the “Announcement”. In order to uphold the principles taught in the Bible and maintain pure faith, we have decided to leave the Ganquan Church!

 

In response to this open letter, Wei Shudie, the wife of Pastor Zhou Songlin, and Ge Yunxia, the wife of Elder Ding Zhongfu, wrote a response open letter titled “Request the Release of Pastor Zhou Songlin and Elder Ding Zhongfu!” on April 27. The full text is as follows:

We are Wei Shudie, the wife of Pastor Zhou Songlin, and Ge Yunxia, the wife of Elder Ding Zhongfu, from the Ganquan Church. On November 30, 2023, our husbands were criminally detained on suspicion of fraud, and it has been exactly five months until now.

The Ganquan Church, due to the power of the gospel, has grown from a Bible study group organized by a few Christians to a church with significant influence in the area. For more than 20 years, Ganquan Church has always been based on Christian faith, strictly following the teachings of the Bible, glorifying God and benefiting people, self-governing and self-disciplining.

The congregation voluntarily offers according to the tradition of the church for thousands of years to maintain the normal operation of the church. The church has a strict financial management system, and the management and use of all offering funds are supervised by multiple people and regularly disclosed. The purchase of the gathering venue property was decided by the co-workers meeting, and several co-workers were nominated to jointly hold the property. The legal procedures were also followed, with video notarization and archiving to prove that the property belongs to the church.

In mid-November last year, the congregation discovered that the church had been secretly installed with pinhole cameras. But everyone persisted in their faith and did not stop gathering.

On the morning of November 30, 2023, 16 church members (13 of whom were church co-workers) were simultaneously searched at home by the public security without warning and taken away and detained on suspicion of “fraud”. Subsequently, 14 believers were gradually released on bail pending trial. However, Pastor Zhou Songlin and Elder Ding Zhongfu remain in custody.

At the beginning of the incident, we thought this was just another organized crackdown and dispersal, and like before, people would be released after admonishment and talks. We believe that the Constitution stipulates citizens have freedom of belief; we firmly believe that our family members are only preaching the gospel and working for the Lord, and have not committed any crimes; we thought the relevant authorities were just going through the procedures, and as long as we cooperated with the investigation and actively communicated, we would definitely prove the innocence of the two brothers.

However, the facts have proven that our thinking was too simple and naive. If they want to accuse you of a crime, they can always find an excuse! Behind the so-called economic crimes is actually the crackdown and persecution of house churches.

Currently, the case has been transferred to the procuratorate. They are both around 60 years old and have chronic illnesses. Life in detention has already caused great damage to their health. Pastor Zhou fell seriously ill in prison for a whole month, and he thought he was going to be “poured out” in prison. Elder Ding’s blood pressure reached as high as 110-170 at the highest, and even with medication, it could not be controlled. He often experiences chest tightness, dizziness, and insomnia.

In these five months, we two wives who “lost” our husbands have also been living in extremely difficult days. Under the pressure from both inside and outside, our bodies are on the verge of collapse, and we wait in agony every day.

In the midst of persecution, the tares in the church have also begun to appear. Some people publicly smear the Christian lawyers hired by the family members, fabricating lies, maliciously slandering, and using spiritual language to cover up their fear.

The lawyers now being hired are all voluntarily entrusted by the two imprisoned pastors and their family members. Not only have they actively defended rights according to the law during the case handling process, but they are also brothers who hold fast to their faith and work for the Lord.

But national security agents are wary of the current lawyers, so they rack their brains to exert pressure through various channels to force the pastors and their family members to dismiss them.

Pastor Zhou Songlin and Elder Ding Zhongfu are representatives of countless Christians in China. They have only persisted in their own faith, practiced their own mission, and fulfilled their own duties.

Now they are being framed with charges and suppressed under the guise of the law. The law is sacred and is meant to uphold justice. It cannot become a tool to suppress faith.

Today we cry out for our husbands. Please let Zhou Songlin and Ding Zhongfu return home quickly! They did not illegally occupy other people’s property through deception. They are not fraudsters. They are innocent. Please give them back their freedom!!

 

These two open letters have drawn some attention within the house churches in China. Christians who emphasize submission to the government and are afraid of persecution and weak in faith believe that the joint letter from the six co-workers makes sense, while Christians who hold the position of house churches mostly support the actions of the two wives, believing that their response is very timely and necessary. Zhang Kai, the representing lawyer, left a message in his WeChat Moments, saying, “The important responsibility of the prophets in the past was to rebuke kings. The important responsibility of some pastors today is to rebuke those who ‘rebuke kings’.” Almost every church caught in a church case will face division and disintegration by the government, and will also be in a state of internal and external troubles due to the double persecution from the government and within the church. However, many church pastors and Christians still believe that persecution is the spiritual wealth of the church and believe that God is still in control.

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Hefei Ganquan Church Pastor and Elder charged with fraud

Pastor Zhou Songlin and his wife Wei Shudie (Source: Internet)
Pastor Zhou Songlin and his wife Wei Shudie (Source: Internet)

(Hefei, Anhui Province – May 7, 2024) On April 27, 2024, Wei Shudie, the wife of Pastor Zhou Songlin, and Ge Yunxia, the wife of Elder Ding Zhongfu, who were arrested for their faith, issued an open letter responding to recent attacks from some believers within the church against their hiring of lawyers according to the law. After their husbands were arrested for their faith, the two wives hired lawyers according to the law and were attacked by some believers within the church, demanding that they fire the lawyers. After they refused, some believers publicly criticized them and declared their withdrawal from the church on April 13.

 

The Ganquan Church in Hefei has a history of more than 20 years since its founding and has about four to five hundred believers. Due to religious persecution, the Ganquan Church has been forced to relocate many times in the past ten years. In order to worship without disturbance, the congregation raised funds to purchase two properties to be used as places of worship. Since the church is not recognized by the government, these two properties had to be registered under the names of Elder Ding Zhongfu and two other church members. Currently, these two properties and the church’s cash flow may become evidence of “fraud”.

 

On the morning of November 30, 2023, at around 7:00 am, the Ganquan Church was raided by the local police. 16 pastors and co-workers were simultaneously searched at home by the public security without warning and taken to the police station for questioning. They were later detained on suspicion of “fraud”. Pastor Zhou Songlin, Elder Ding Zhongfu, Preacher Mao Junma, Preacher Pei Defei, and co-worker Yang Peiyun were criminally detained for 15 days. Subsequently, 14 believers were gradually released on bail pending trial. However, Pastor Zhou Songlin and Elder Ding Zhongfu remain in custody.

 

Wei Shudie, the wife of Pastor Zhou Songlin, and Ge Yunxia, the wife of Elder Ding Zhongfu, hired two Christian lawyers for their husbands. The lawyers applied to the court to read the case files multiple times, but it was not until early April this year that they were able to see the case files. The amount involved in the case included the church’s entire cash flow for decades, reaching a staggering figure. The case has now been transferred to the procuratorate. The two wives have also issued prayer requests multiple times, asking Christians to pray for their husbands, families, and the church. Many church members have also written letters and testimonies, proving that their pastors and elders are faithful, kind, and helpful, and could not possibly be “fraudsters”. 

 

However, under the government’s persecution, different voices have also emerged within the church. Since this church case occurred, church co-workers and believers have been subjected to large-scale summons and threats. Whether due to differences in theological positions or weak faith, some within the church have opposed the two wives and lawyers publicly issuing prayer requests and hiring Christian lawyers who have reported judicial personnel for violations. They demanded that the two wives change to other lawyers. The two wives were unwilling to change lawyers. Therefore, on April 13, 2024, six church members who claimed to be co-workers jointly issued an open letter titled “The Reason We Left This Church”, criticizing the two wives and the lawyers, believing that they were too confrontational with the government and not submissive to the government. The full text of the open letter is as follows:

Dear brothers and sisters, peace to you in Christ!

As we all know: On November 30, 2023, the church experienced a major setback, and 16 members were questioned. On that day, the church’s co-workers went to comfort the families and take care of their household needs. During the process of the legal team representing the case, we discovered that the prayer requests were being used by anti-China websites abroad; some core co-workers of the church accepted the lawyers’ suggestions to organize everyone to write commemorative articles and letters (taking photos and sending them to public accounts abroad), signing names, and remitting money. The above practices have brought the church and the congregation into danger.

On February 5, 2024, the church urgently convened a co-workers meeting and passed an “Announcement” for the entire congregation, expressing the church’s position and attitude. The “Announcement” represents the will of the church and also conforms to the church’s handling process when encountering major incidents. The “Announcement” is in line with the church’s political and religious stance, that is: we are Chinese Christians, and have always upheld the political and religious concept that we do not get involved in politics, do not engage with foreign entities, and adhere to the faith in accordance with the Bible. Therefore, we do not want the case of our church to be used by foreign forces (engaging with foreign entities) to achieve certain political purposes (getting involved in politics).

The method adopted by the legal team is to frequently create and generate confrontations with the government, putting the church in a state of direct confrontation with the government, which is clearly inconsistent with the church’s position and our belief. The first point of the “Announcement” is: “Regarding hiring lawyers: Because the lawyers originally hired, when representing cases involving our church, adopted solutions that are contrary to the position of our church, making it difficult to continue effective cooperation, the church has already suggested that the relevant pastor and elder family members dismiss the lawyers and switch to lawyers who are in line with the position of our church.”

The clients in this case should obey the church’s position and decision, and according to the requirements of the “Announcement”, dismiss the lawyers who do not conform to the church’s position. However, it was recently discovered that the clients in this case are still using lawyers who violate our faith principles. Without the church’s permission, the lawyer took it upon themselves to maliciously report the case-handling personnel of the relevant department, intensifying the confrontation between the church and the government. This action has caused the church “represented” by the lawyer to go against the position stated in the previously issued “Announcement”, becoming a group of people who are inconsistent and lack integrity.

Our decision:

Our faith principle is to establish a church with Christ as the head. The decision made by a small number of people on behalf of the church has violated our original faith intentions and the spirit of the “Announcement”. In order to uphold the principles taught in the Bible and maintain pure faith, we have decided to leave the Ganquan Church!

 

In response to this open letter, Wei Shudie, the wife of Pastor Zhou Songlin, and Ge Yunxia, the wife of Elder Ding Zhongfu, wrote a response open letter titled “Request the Release of Pastor Zhou Songlin and Elder Ding Zhongfu!” on April 27. The full text is as follows:

We are Wei Shudie, the wife of Pastor Zhou Songlin, and Ge Yunxia, the wife of Elder Ding Zhongfu, from the Ganquan Church. On November 30, 2023, our husbands were criminally detained on suspicion of fraud, and it has been exactly five months until now.

The Ganquan Church, due to the power of the gospel, has grown from a Bible study group organized by a few Christians to a church with significant influence in the area. For more than 20 years, Ganquan Church has always been based on Christian faith, strictly following the teachings of the Bible, glorifying God and benefiting people, self-governing and self-disciplining.

The congregation voluntarily offers according to the tradition of the church for thousands of years to maintain the normal operation of the church. The church has a strict financial management system, and the management and use of all offering funds are supervised by multiple people and regularly disclosed. The purchase of the gathering venue property was decided by the co-workers meeting, and several co-workers were nominated to jointly hold the property. The legal procedures were also followed, with video notarization and archiving to prove that the property belongs to the church.

In mid-November last year, the congregation discovered that the church had been secretly installed with pinhole cameras. But everyone persisted in their faith and did not stop gathering.

On the morning of November 30, 2023, 16 church members (13 of whom were church co-workers) were simultaneously searched at home by the public security without warning and taken away and detained on suspicion of “fraud”. Subsequently, 14 believers were gradually released on bail pending trial. However, Pastor Zhou Songlin and Elder Ding Zhongfu remain in custody.

At the beginning of the incident, we thought this was just another organized crackdown and dispersal, and like before, people would be released after admonishment and talks. We believe that the Constitution stipulates citizens have freedom of belief; we firmly believe that our family members are only preaching the gospel and working for the Lord, and have not committed any crimes; we thought the relevant authorities were just going through the procedures, and as long as we cooperated with the investigation and actively communicated, we would definitely prove the innocence of the two brothers.

However, the facts have proven that our thinking was too simple and naive. If they want to accuse you of a crime, they can always find an excuse! Behind the so-called economic crimes is actually the crackdown and persecution of house churches.

Currently, the case has been transferred to the procuratorate. They are both around 60 years old and have chronic illnesses. Life in detention has already caused great damage to their health. Pastor Zhou fell seriously ill in prison for a whole month, and he thought he was going to be “poured out” in prison. Elder Ding’s blood pressure reached as high as 110-170 at the highest, and even with medication, it could not be controlled. He often experiences chest tightness, dizziness, and insomnia.

In these five months, we two wives who “lost” our husbands have also been living in extremely difficult days. Under the pressure from both inside and outside, our bodies are on the verge of collapse, and we wait in agony every day.

In the midst of persecution, the tares in the church have also begun to appear. Some people publicly smear the Christian lawyers hired by the family members, fabricating lies, maliciously slandering, and using spiritual language to cover up their fear.

The lawyers now being hired are all voluntarily entrusted by the two imprisoned pastors and their family members. Not only have they actively defended rights according to the law during the case handling process, but they are also brothers who hold fast to their faith and work for the Lord.

But national security agents are wary of the current lawyers, so they rack their brains to exert pressure through various channels to force the pastors and their family members to dismiss them.

Pastor Zhou Songlin and Elder Ding Zhongfu are representatives of countless Christians in China. They have only persisted in their own faith, practiced their own mission, and fulfilled their own duties.

Now they are being framed with charges and suppressed under the guise of the law. The law is sacred and is meant to uphold justice. It cannot become a tool to suppress faith.

Today we cry out for our husbands. Please let Zhou Songlin and Ding Zhongfu return home quickly! They did not illegally occupy other people’s property through deception. They are not fraudsters. They are innocent. Please give them back their freedom!!

 

These two open letters have drawn some attention within the house churches in China. Christians who emphasize submission to the government and are afraid of persecution and weak in faith believe that the joint letter from the six co-workers makes sense, while Christians who hold the position of house churches mostly support the actions of the two wives, believing that their response is very timely and necessary. Zhang Kai, the representing lawyer, left a message in his WeChat Moments, saying, “The important responsibility of the prophets in the past was to rebuke kings. The important responsibility of some pastors today is to rebuke those who ‘rebuke kings’.” Almost every church caught in a church case will face division and disintegration by the government, and will also be in a state of internal and external troubles due to the double persecution from the government and within the church. However, many church pastors and Christians still believe that persecution is the spiritual wealth of the church and believe that God is still in control.

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