(Deyang, Sichuan province) March 16 marked one year of imprisonment for Elder Zhang Chunlei of Guiyang Ren’ai Church and four months of incarceration for Hao Ming—a former elder of Qingcaodi Church. Li Yingqiang, the elder of Chengdu Early Rain Covenant Church, posted a diary to those who were arrested and imprisoned after helping him.
Guiyang Ren’ai House Church is a reformed house church. Elder Zhang Chunlei used to be an official of the Guizhou Provincial Department but left due to his faith. He responded to God’s calling by serving the church full time. While the Chinese government escalated its crackdown on house churches, Pastor Wang Yi of Early Rain Covenant Church penned “Declaration for the Sake of the Christian Faith,” and Elder Zhang Chunlei signed his name to the joint statement. More than half of the pastors who signed the statement were summoned to speak with national security officers. Authorities rummaged multiple house churches and confiscated possessions. Many churches were shut down. The massive crackdown against Early Rain Covenant Church happened on December 9, 2018. Several house church leaders including Elder Zhang Chunlei raised their voices, saying that they were willing to be given the same charges as Wang Yi.
On Sunday, May 12, 2019, Ren’ai Church was raided and shut down. Afterward, Elder Zhang Chunlei still hosted worship for the church and visited persecuted elders and lay believers across the region. In August 2020, Elders Zhang Chunlei and Hao Ming took a long journey and went to Li Yingqiang’s hometown to visit his release on bail.
In September 2020, Elder Li Yingqiang and his family returned to Chengdu to pastor the church, but they were persecuted and evicted by police upon their arrival. National security officers set a makeshift area in the hallway of Li’s rental so that they could watch him constantly. Police knocked on their door every Sunday morning, summoning them to the police station and threatening Li’s wife and kids. In November 2020, police forcibly transported Li Yingqiang’s family to Mianyang. They had to find a rental in Mianyang, but the water, power, and gas at the rental were shut off shortly. Li’s family was invited by Elder Zhang Chunlei of Guiyang Ren’ai Church and stayed in Guiyang for a while.
On March 16, 2021, Ren’ai Church was raided again, and multiple congregants were arrested. That evening, Elder Zhang Chunlei came to the police station to get updates, but he was detained that evening and then given 15-day administrative detention the next day. He was criminally detained for 37 days after serving the 15-day detention. He was officially arrested on a charge of “fraud” on May 1, but the trial has not yet been held. Ren’ai Reformed Church was severely raided on March 16: the pastor and multiple Christians were arrested, homes of the pastor and co-workers were ransacked, and possessions were confiscated.
Elder Li Yingqiang disclosed that he borrowed money from friends and bought a small home in Deyang to stop him from being evicted in late 2020. Deyang Qingcaodi Church’s former elder Hao Ming and other Christians helped them purchase the home and remodel it. In March 2021, Li Yingqiang’s family moved to their new own home and settled in. Nevertheless, the two elders who hosted and helped Elder Li Yingqiang were arrested and jailed on the charge of “fraud” one after the other. Police changed their charge to “inciting to subvert the state power” when they could not find evidence to support their charge.
Deyang police took Hao Ming and other Qingcaodi members on November 17. Elders Hao Ming and Wu Jiannan were officially criminally detained on a charge of “fraud” two days later, and their arrest on a charge of “fraud” was approved by Deyang City Jingyang District People’s Court on December 24. Authorities released the other arrested members. Speculation remains that there is not sufficient evidence supporting the “fraud” accusation, so their conviction might be changed to “inciting subversion state power.”
Below is the full dairy entry by Li Yingqiang, commemorating a year since Elder Zhang Chunlei’s arrest:
Today is March 16, 2022. Elder Zhang Chunlei, my friend, big brother, and beloved brother in Christ was arrested a year ago today. One year has passed.
On November 15, 2020, my family was intensely evicted in Leshan, so we had to move out after staying there for 2 weeks. Chunlei helped us settle in Guiyang and asked us to stay multiple times. We stayed in Guiyang for four months. On March 15, 2021, we left Guiyang, and Chunlei was arrested on the second day. The initial charge was “fraud,” but the accusation of inciting to subvert state power was added later.
Chunlei was so thoughtful to us while we stayed in Guiyang. He visited us almost every week with other brothers and sisters to fellowship and communicate with us. He showed us around and took us to spots missionaries worked in Guizhou. He helped and comforted me in my challenging time.
Chunlei often told me about his hope that Pastor Wang Yi would not serve the full nine-year sentence and would be released soon while I was in Guiyang. My response was that we may not expect Pastor Wang Yi’s early release, but we ourselves and others need to be prepared to be imprisoned with him before his release.
Chunlei regarded being jailed with Pastor Wang Yi as the glory the Lord grants. It turns out that the Lord granted it to him that day.
In fact, Chunlei posted on WeChat Moments that he was willing to be imprisoned with Pastor Wang Yi after the 129 crackdown happened in 2018. He was the only one who said this at that time in mainland China, which is rare.
On March 16, 2021, my family returned to Sichuan from Guiyang and stayed in Deyang. Elder Hao Ming, one of my other big brothers, lives here.
In August 2020, Hao Ming and his wife visited me with Chunlei after I was released on bail and planned to return to Chengdu. In early September I came back to Chengdu but was evicted by Chengdu police by every means, so I had to move. I loaned money from a friend before leaving Chengdu, asking Elder Hao Ming to purchase a property in Deyang (in the hope that I could continue to serve the church if I lived adjacent to Chengdu). Elder Hao Ming responded, saying that he will do his best to help me out even if he would be jailed because of it.
I felt at that time that he might have overthought the situation because it was clear that a friend of mine lent me money and Hao Ming just helped me look for a home and do the paperwork. In my mind, it should not have brought him any trouble.
Elder Hao Ming took a 2-month leave and helped me purchase the home to not let the church he served be involved. Back in that time, I planned to move into the Deyang home in mid-December.
However, my move to Deyang was delayed due to various things. I did not move to Deyang until March 16, 2021. Hao Ming officially retired from Qingcaodi Church. He served for many years before I returned to Deyang.
Hao Ming took good care of my family after I moved back to Deyang. He invited us to his place, and we had meals together and communicated with each other. It is incredible that Hao Ming was arrested at his place on November 17, half an hour after we had lunch and went back home. The initial charge was “fraud,” but I heard the accusation of “inciting subversion of state power” had been added.
Hao Ming has been in custody for four months today.
I am wordless! I am grateful for Chunlei and Hao Ming, I am certain that God is present with them, and they are more blessed than me.
I am sad while thinking of them this spring night. Lord, may you have mercy on them and strengthen Chunlei and Hao Ming. In addition… may you protect my heart and be with me—your weak child as same as you are with them…
March 16, 2022, at 11:55 pm in Deyang
~Yu Bing, ChinaAid Contributing Reporter