CHINA: Elder Zhang Chunlei’s lawyer visits him in prison

Zhang ChunleiElder Zhang Chunlei (60) leads the banned Ren’ai Reformed Church in Guiyang, Guizhou province and has been in detention since March 2021. He stood trial for “fraud and inciting subversion of state power” in November 2022 but the court’s verdict was never announced and his defence lawyer has been denied access to the case files.

In early May Elder Zhang’s lawyer visited him at the Guiyang City Detention Centre and reported that he looked slightly thin but said he was very comforted to hear about the release of two imprisoned leaders of Qingcaodi Reformed Church in Deyang, Sichuan province.

In his conversation with the lawyer Elder Zhang reflected very honestly on his past attitude as a pastor, saying that previously he wanted to do many things in the church but neglected the feelings of brothers and sisters. He said he focused on ministry work but lacked love and reflected that when criticising unbelievers in the past his intention was to spread the gospel, but due to a lack of love in his language he pushed them away instead. He said he feels he was immature before and believes he will be different after being released from prison.

Elder Zhang, who used to run his own business, said he has come to realise that “Serving the church is not the same as running a business.” He described himself as “completely corrupt” and said that if a person lacks love they lack an understanding of grace; they have received grace themselves but are legalistic towards others. If love is lacking, it is because prayer is lacking, and there is a problem with the relationship with the Lord. Fortunately there is God, otherwise he would only be left with guilt.

He said loving someone and praying for them is better than any gift, adding that now he often prays by name for congregation members and co-workers. He said he is an impatient person and that being able to endure these three years of imprisonment involves the work of the Holy Spirit. If he can get out of the prison a little earlier he will be grateful; if he gets out a little later, he will also be grateful, but he hopes it will not be delayed.

His lawyer concluded, “Elder Zhang is not only a suffering saint, but also an increasingly mature and humble pastor.”


Ren’ai Church is an unregistered house church that has suffered heavy persecution including repeated raids since it was banned by local government in 2018.

After a raid on a church gathering on 16 March 2021, when several members were arrested and had their homes searched, Elder Zhang went to the police station to inquire about the situation. He was immediately detained and after eleven days in administrative detention followed by 37 days in criminal detention he was charged with “fraud“, a common accusation against leaders of unregistered churches in China, and was formally arrested.

In January 2022 he was also charged with “inciting subversion of state power” and Guiyang Municipal Intermediate Procuratorate combined both charges into one case. In November 2022 he was tried at Guiyang Intermediate People’s Court but no judgement has ever been pronounced.

In March 2024 Judge Song Qingsong, who is handling the case, told Elder Zhang’s wife Yang Aiqing that the case was “still being processed and that further time was needed due to its “special nature”.

Read Elder Zhang’s Prisoner Profile.

(China Aid)

Photo: China Aid