Chinese Communist Party (CCP) authorities have sentenced Pastor Li Juncai (pictured) of Yuanyang County Central House Church in Henan province to five and a half years in prison for objecting to the CCP’s forcible removal of his church cross and refusing to change church signs proclaiming “Love God and people” to “Love country, love religion”. The authorities accused Pastor Li of embezzlement, obstructing government administration and destruction of accounting records.
In 2013, Yuanyang County Central House Church relinquished its status as a government-sanctioned church within the Three-Self Patriotic Movement and merged with a local house church. With between seven and eight hundred Christians attending services, it became the largest house church in the area and owned several buildings.
On 20 February 2019, the CCP criminally detained Pastor Li under the charge of “obstructing government administration”. Police also detained three other Christians, Wu Raoyun, Ban Yun and Ma Yanfang, the same day.
The next day, Yuanyang County religious affairs bureau authorities, police and urban management officers forcibly removed the cross on top of the church building and removed signs inside the church proclaiming, “Love God and people”. They then forced church members to raise China’s national flag in front of the church building (pictured).
One month after the arrests, the three Christians detained with Pastor Li were released on bail, but the pastor remained in detention. His son Li Chao contends that CCP authorities fabricated the charges in retaliation for the pastor taking a stance against the demolition of the church cross and the government’s suppression of house churches to tighten its control over religion.
On 11 January 2021, China Aid secured a copy of the last page of the verdicts (pictured) for Pastor Li Juncai and the three other Christians detained in February 2019. The verdicts read as follows:
Li Juncai, the defendant, is sentenced to:
a. one year on the charge of misappropriation of funds;
b. one and a half years on the charge of embezzlement of duty;
c. two and a half years on the charge of intentionally destroying books of account, and a fine of 50,000 yuan;
d. one year on the charge of disrupting public service
Concurrent punishment for several crimes, and it is decided that all sentences will be served at the same time in total of five and a half years with a fine of 50,000 yuan.
(The sentence becomes effective on the day of issuing the verdict. The days of detention before the verdict count as the sentence. One detention day equals one day of imprisonment from February 21, 2019 to August 20, 2024, and the fine should be paid within 10 days starting the day that the verdict is effective.)
Ma Yanfang, the defendant, is sentenced to:
a. one year on the charge of disrupting public service but is given one and a half years’ probation.
(The probation stars from the day when the verdict is certain and lasts one year and six months.)
Ban Yun, the defendant, is sentenced to:
a. Eight months on the charge of disrupting public service but is given one year probation.
(The probation starts from the day when the verdict is certain and lasts a year.)
Wu Raoyun, the defendant, is sentenced to;
a. Eight months on the charge of disrupting public service but given one year probation.
(The probation stars from the day when the verdict is certain and lasts a year.)
(China Aid, International Christian Concern)