|Su Tianfu (left) and Yang Hua (right)
(Guiyang, Guizhou—Sept. 27, 2017) A court in China’s southern Guizhou province broke typical Chinese protocol by refusing two pastors a hearing to contest their hefty fine.
Since the government accused Huoshi Church of receiving 7 million yuan ($1,020,200 USD) of “illegal income” in May, pastors Su Tianfu and Yang Hua have been contesting a fine for the same amount. On Sept. 11 and 15, Zhang Lei, Yang’s defense lawyer, submitted two applications, describing their contents to a ChinaAid reporter on Sept. 21.
“The first one was a request to go through the files that the Nanming District Religious Affairs Bureau used as the basis of its decision and written copies of the responses,” Zhang said. “In another application, I requested that they hold hearings. For the first application regarding files and written responses, the officials made an appointment with me for tomorrow [Sept. 22] afternoon. As for the second request for holding hearings, they gave me a written response. The officials think that since the facts related to this case are clear and straightforward, it is unnecessary to hold hearings. It means that the government will process the case with documents.”
On Sept. 12 and 18, the Guizhou Municipal Ethnic and Religious Committee issued notices to Yang and Su that reiterated that the facts were clear enough for them not to hold a hearing for the case according to Article 33 of the Administrative Reconsideration Law of the People’s Republic of China. However, the case’s facts are not as “straightforward” and “clear” as authorities claim. The amount the church received came in the form of donations from its members, was not obtained through illegal measures, and was used to cover church-related costs.
“It is a complicated, essential case that concerns the citizens’ basic freedom of religion, not to mention that the case also concerns a more than a 7 million yuan fine, which is a large number,” Zhang said. “According to the Administrative Reconsideration Law, the applicants are eligible to request a hearing under such conditions. In fact, it is a norm for the departments in charge of administrative reconsideration to approach these cases with hearings. Therefore, I don’t think their response is in accordance with the Administrative Reconsideration Law.”
Su said, “For a case that has a huge fine, it is reasonable and lawful for the lawyer to request a hearing during the reconsideration period. Now, the Guiyang Municipal Religious Affairs Bureau rejected the request in order to rush through the legal procedures as fast as possible.”
On Aug. 23 and 24, Yang and Su applied for administrative review and requested that the local religious affairs bureau and asked that they revoke the fine.
Additionally, Yang is currently serving a two-and-a-half year sentence on a falsified “divulging state secrets” charge after he attempted to prevent authorities from confiscating a church hard drive on Dec. 9, 2015, and Su received the same charge in May. His case is still ongoing.
ChinaAid exposes abuses, such as those suffered by Pastors Su and Yang, in order to stand in solidarity with persecuted Christians and promote religious freedom, human rights, and rule of law.