(Shanxi province) Local government officials accused Linfen Covenant House Church preachers and a co-worker of “fraud.” Defense attorneys Fang Xianguo and Yuan Mao informed Linfen City People’s Procuratorate of the mishandling of the case by the lower district. However, the city prosecutors called the case “cult” related and refused to accept any materials.
According to Chinese law, the Yaodu District People’s Procuratorate of Linfen City made an error in this case. They did not investigate police suspected of illegal collection of evidence and bending the law for personal gain.
On July 22nd, Linfen Covenant House Church issued a bulletin. Their church members follow the principles of the Bible. Congregants adhere to the church’s two-thousand-year-old tradition of tithes and offerings, without violating any national laws. Meanwhile, China repeatedly issued documents and statements promising to the world that it will guarantee religious freedom. They continue to break their promises.
Whether a church is registered or not, in the absence of a suspected crime, none of the people involved can constitute fraud simply by participating in tithes and offerings.
The bulletin pointed out that the investigative agency, the direct branch under Linfen City’s Public Security Bureau, acted unlawfully in handling the case. They first filed the case under the charge of fraud, then coerced “victims” to file false reports, creating a false case. Li Jie, Han Xiaodong, and Wang Qiang were put under residential surveillance at designated locations, where they were interrogated and subjected to corporal punishment and abuse.
Lawyers Fang and Yuan, who represent this case, went to the Linfen City People’s Procuratorate to report these problems. The reception staff at the office rejected the lawyers’ opinions and denigrated the unregistered Covenant House Church as a cult.
The reception staff stated that the case was now under the jurisdiction of the Yao Du District People’s Procuratorate. With the end of their shift as an excuse, they refused to answer any more questions. This rude refusal violates Article 10(2) and Article 24(1) of China’s “Organic Law of the People’s Procuratorate.”
On the morning of July 11th, lawyers Fang and Yuan officially submitted their legal supervision opinions to the Shanxi Provincial People’s Procuratorate. However, the complaints department incorrectly processed the formal lawyers’ opinion as a petition.
Li Jie, and Wang Yi
Linfen Covenant House Church is independent of the official Chinese Communist Party churches. In the autumn of 2018, the preacher of the church, Li Jie, participated in co-signing the “A Declaration for the Sake of the Christian Faith” initiated by Pastor Wang Yi of Early Rain Covenant Church.
Arrest in 2022
On August 19, 2022, when the church held an outdoor “family camp,” more than a hundred police officers stormed the venue, and Li Jie, Han Xiaodong, and Wang Qiang were subsequently detained on suspicion of “fraud” charges.
In recent years, China has been using the crime of “fraud” to clamp down on house church preachers. Covenant House Church is just one of the house churches that have been suppressed using this charge. Similar cases and crackdowns in several provinces suggest that this should be a unified action on a higher level.
~ Gao Zhensai, Special Correspondent of ChinaAid