Xi’s China Ends 2019 With The Worst Religious Persecution In The Country’s History By Helen Raleigh for The Federalist
Increased religious persecution in China has failed to curtail the growing number of Christians, which has reached more than 100 million today — more than the 90 million members of the Chinese Communist Party.
Dec. 30, 2019, was a day when people who live in the free world were busy planning ahead and getting ready for New Year’s Eve celebrations. But for China’s outspoken Wang Yi, the founding pastor of China’s most famous house church, the Early Rain Covenant Church, there was no such celebration. After being detained by Chinese authorities for more than a year without an actual charge, in a closed-door legal proceeding Wang was sentenced to nine years in prison for trumped up convictions of “inciting subversion of state power” and “illegal business activities.”
Throughout the proceeding, Wang’s lawyer wasn’t allowed to defend him. In addition to jail time, Wang will be stripped of his political rights for four years, and the Chinese government will confiscate about $7,000 worth of his personal assets. According to Bob Fu, president of China Aid, a U.S.-based nonprofit organization advocating for basic rights of Chinese Christians, Wang’s sentence is the harshest of any house church leaders in China.
Why Pastor Wang Engaged in ‘Faithful Disobedience’
I had first written about the injustice Wang and his church faced in early December 2019, which marked the one-year anniversary of his detainment. Wang and more than 100 of his church members were arrested during a raid just before Christmas, which the government initiated to “root out” a number of prominent Christians and house churches back in 2018.
Most Early Rain church members were eventually released after enduring various degrees of interrogation and torture. Wang, however, lost his freedom ever since that day. His whereabouts are still unknown to his family. In a strange way, the recent year-end sentence was comforting to Wang’s family because at least it signaled he is still alive.
The government’s charges against Wang are spurious, to say the least. China’s Constitution states that Chinese citizens should be able to enjoy the freedoms of religion and expression. Wang practices his faith openly. He posts his sermons online. He has been an outspoken critic of Chinese Communist Party leader Xi’s “Sinicise religion” policy, which demands the Communist Party actively “guide” every religion to “be compatible with socialism and implement measures to Sinicise the religion” to foster patriotism.
All religious believers in China are required to “let the Party lead, listen to the Party, and walk behind the Party.” As a result, many government-sanctioned churches begin their services by singing patriotic songs praising the Communist Party and the motherland, followed by bowing to giant portraits of Xi. Many believers are so repulsed by such compulsions, they choose to worship in house churches.
Wang criticized the Chinese government for compelling Christians to treat Xi as a god, as well as China’s ruthless persecutions against its Christians. Knowing the government treats any criticism as “inciting subversion of state power,” Wang made it clear in his now-famous letter, “My Declaration of Faithful Disobedience,” which he wrote several months before his arrest, that he isn’t interested in “changing any political or legal institutions in China,” because “the goal of disobedience is not to change the world but to testify about another world.” He also declared: