|Su Tianfu (left) and Yang Hua (right)
were fined more than $1 million dollars
for collecting church offerings.
(Guiyang, Guizhou—Jan. 17, 2018) A court in China’s southern Guizhou province delivered a final verdict to a house church pastor earlier this month, fining him millions.
After seven months of battling authorities, Pastor Su Tianfu learned recently that he and a fellow pastor of Huoshi Church, Yang Hua, would be forced to pay a 7,053,710.68 yuan ($1,096,499.33 USD) fine for collecting that amount in church offerings from their congregation. In May 2017, officials notified Su and Yang of the fine, terming the donations “illegal income.”
Both Su and Yang filed several appeals, arguing that they had only used the money on the church and therefore, it could not be considered “illegal income,” but they were all denied. In this final verdict, officials dissected Yang’s arguments against the legality of the fine and dismissed them, defending their original stance. Their decision is final.
Since its founding in 2009, Huoshi Church maintained an open relationship with the Chinese government, informing officials of all of their religious activities in order to follow Chinese law. Eventually, authorities started arbitrarily targeting it, and subjected it to multiple raids in 2015 and its members to detention and arrest.
On Dec. 9, 2015, officials took Yang into custody for protecting a church hard drive from confiscation. A day later, they sentenced him to two consecutive, five-day administrative detention sentences for “the crime of obstructing justice” and “gathering a crowd to disturb public order.” However, when his wife came to collect him on Dec. 20, 2015—his release date—she saw him being herded into an unlicensed vehicle and putting on a black hood. She later learned that the government had transferred him into criminal detention for “illegally possessing state secrets.” They arrested him on Jan. 22, 2016, changing the charge once more to “divulging state secrets.”
For more than a year, Yang endured abuse at the hands of officials, suffering repeated torture as his prosecutors tried to force a confession from him, threatening to harm his family and kill him as they applied immense pressure to his toes.
In what ChinaAid President Bob Fu condemned as “nothing but purely barbaric religious persecution,” a court sentenced Yang to two-and-a-half years in prison on Jan. 5, 2017.