A Chinese Christian pastor has been sentenced to eight years in prison after being charged with “fraud” for running a house church and accepting donations from members without the approval of the Chinese Communist Party regime’s state-sanctioned religious committee.
Pastor Hao Zhiwei Egangqiao Church in Ezhou city in the Hubei province was sentenced on February 11, according to China Aid.
“She was charged with fraud for preaching the Gospel and receiving donations from church members without approval from the state-run Committee of the Three-Self Patriotic Movement of the Protestant Churches and the Christian Council, said her lawyer Si Weijiang,” UCA News reported.
According to Si, Hao is the first Chinese house church pastor to be sentenced has been implemented in such a fraud case.
Chinese house churches have come under growing scrutiny from the CCP in recent years, since the government implemented new, sweeping regulations governing houses of worship and religious practices in 2018.
Several house ministries have been raided, closed, and pastors and members detained and even tortured according to some reports. UCA News also notes that crosses have been removed, church buildings demolished, and offerings banned, and pastors face charges of “illegal business operations,” “inciting subversion of state power,” or “picking quarrels and provoking trouble.”
One such church that frequently appears in western news reports of Chinese Christian persecution is the Early Rain Covenant Church in Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan province, and one of its elders, Li Yingqiang, defended Hao and house churches late last year.
“Chinese house churches receive offerings from Christians and use the money to financially support preachers. This conforms to the teaching of the Holy Bible and is adopted by churches all over the world. Christians’ offerings and the church’s support for preachers are closely related to the Christian church’s identity and mission,” he said, according to UCA News.
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