(Huaibei, Anhui—Dec. 7, 2017) A pastor in China’s eastern Anhui province stood trial on last week after falsely being charged with destroying land.
On Nov. 29, Caili Church pastor Chen Shixin defended his innocence before a court of officials, combatting a falsified “sabotaging properties” charge. Prosecutors presented inaccurate photos alleging that he damaged 3,307 trees that belonged to Duji resident Li Wenqian, which were valued at 190,000 yuan ($27,928.00 USD), and hired bulldozers with the help of accomplices. As a result, Chen’s lawyer requested that authorities reassess the number of trees destroyed and promised to submit a written application following the trial, and Chen also gave his own defense. The hearing lasted five hours and was attended by 10 of Chen’s supporters.
In truth, a court in Lieshan District had granted Caili Church the rights to a piece of land that was part of a 494-acre plot that had previously been illegally occupied by residents of the neighboring Duji District for more than 20 years. Hoping to build a temple, the Duji occupants, which included Li, searched for reasons to frame the church and found that Chen had worked on the church’s land, so they accused him of property damage.
Secretaries from both districts agreed that the land was part of Lieshan District, meaning that the Duji occupants held no right to it, but an official document was never released. At this time, the government departments have all retracted their statements, saying the land belongs Duji District.
Frustrated by Chen’s refusal to grant him the land, Li hired a woman surnamed Ren to kidnap Chen’s brother, but authorities uncovered the plot and intervened.
The public security bureau formalized Chen’s arrest on May 18, and the procuratorate transferred the case for prosecution on July 20.
ChinaAid exposes abuses, such as those experienced by Chen, in order to stand in solidarity with persecuted Christians and promote religious freedom, human rights, and rule of law.