Pastor Zhang Shaojie of Nanle Country Christian Church, Henan Province, has been sentenced to 12 years in prison for fraud and “gathering a crowd to disturb public order”; he has also been fined 100,000 RMB (approximately AU$17,000).
Over 20 members of Nanle County Christian Church, Henan, which belongs to the state-sanctioned Three-Self Patriotic Movement, were detained without formal documentation in November 2013. Church members, lawyers and Christians visiting the family of detained Protestant Pastor Zhang Shaojie were beaten, harassed and detained by ‘hired thugs’, police and government agencies in December 2013. Six church members arrested in November and December 2013 remain in detention.
The date for Pastor Zhang’s trial was changed several times and the trial itself was suspended amid concerns about the authenticity of the witnesses’ testimonies. Pastor Zhang was also left with no option but to dismiss his original lawyers when it appeared they were at risk of losing their licences.
The sentence comes just months after a spate of forced demolitions and the removal of religious symbols from churches in Zhejiang Province prompted fears among some Chinese Christians of increasing restrictions on both state-sanctioned and unregistered congregations by the government.
Source: Christian Solidarity Worldwide
- Pray for Pastor Zhang, that he will not lose heart but continue to trust in the Lord; pray he will abandon all glory in order to come into a deeper relationship with Christ. (Philippians 3:7-10).
- Pray the Christians will not be fearful of the authorities and will not give up meeting together.
- Pray those in authority may know of Christ’s love and forgiveness by the witness of Pastor Zhang and his church family.