CHINA: Detained pastor’s condition improves

Lian ChangnianPastor Lian Changnian (70) of Xi’an Church of Abundance, whose health was severely damaged in detention, has recently shown some recovery.

The pastor is being held in Baqiao Detention Centre in Xi’an, capital of Shaanxi province in central China, on  suspicion of “fraud”. Chinese authorities often falsely accuse house church pastors of fraud, based on the collection of tithes and offerings, as a way of imprisoning them.

When Pastor Lian’s defence lawyer visited him on 28 April he was concerned to find him confused, agitated and physically weak, but in a recent visit the lawyer found that Pastor Lian’s condition had improved. The pastor even said that at the end of May he fasted and prayed for five days in the detention centre, telling his lawyer that he was not on hunger strike but fasting and praying and that as a pastor he would not commit suicide. Pastor Lian appeared mentally clear and when the lawyer confused the names of Paul and Peter during their conversation the pastor was able to correct him.

Xi’an Church of Abundance is one of the largest house church groups in China and Pastor Lian, as the leader of an unregistered church, has been imprisoned several times. On 17 August 2022 he and his son Pastor Lian Xuliang and their co-worker Fu Juan were taken into custody on suspicion of fraud and placed under “residential surveillance at a designated location”. There they suffered torture including starvation, beatings, being force-fed unknown drugs and being denied access to the toilet for extended periods.

In February 2023 the three Christians were criminally detained on suspicion of fraud and transferred to a detention centre, where they were held under better conditions with adequate food. The following month they were formally arrested on suspicion of fraud and in January 2024 their case entered the courts, with a sentencing recommendation of five years’ imprisonment for each.

On 29 April 2024 Xi’an Church of Abundance issued a prayer letter stating that Pastor Lian Changnian had suffered severe abuse during his designated residential surveillance from 17 August 2022 to 15 February 2023 and that during that period his physical and mental health were severely damaged.

Recent crackdown on house churches

The “China at 5 PM” prayer network has reported a recent crackdown on house churches across China. The latest news involves eight Christian men from a house church in Zhuzhou city, Hunan province, who were administratively detained for “continuing activities in the name of a banned organisation”. Four were detained for three days, three for five days and one for ten days.

In late May some 16 pastors from Yunnan province and three from Shandong province were taken away by police while meeting in Yunnan’s capital, Kunming. They were administratively detained for between ten and 15 days and gradually released.

The prayer network also reported that a house church led by an elderly Christian surnamed Bai in Hohhot, Inner Mongolia, has also faced a crackdown.

(China Aid)