Chinese Communist Party (CCP) authorities arrested Pastor Hao Zhiwei in July 2019; however, she still awaits trial. Four months after Hao’s arrest, officials charged her with swindling 2.24 million yuan ($469,340) in church offerings. CCP authorities also accused two church staff members, Hong Ying and Wang Yuanxiang, of fraud but because they “confessed”, they warranted leniency. Prosecutors have not set a trial date for Hao.
“The case is set to have a far-reaching legal impact that could see other house church pastors like Hao come under more legal scrutiny on top of the existing administrative regulations over religious affairs,” Si Weijiang, Hao’s lawyer, said.
Hao’s trial was originally set for January and then apparently postponed until August but there is still no notice of when it will take place. The coronavirus pandemic has also caused delays.
Hao’s husband died two years ago, her two sons, aged 13 and 17, are without both parents.
According to Hao’s 17-year-old son, identifying himself as Paul, “The government is indefinitely postponing the trial as they continue to look for evidence so they can frame my mother by building a fraud case against her that never existed in the first place,” He said he was staying on campus at a university in eastern Zhejiang province but his brother lives at home in Ezhou with a part-time domestic helper.
After authorities arrested Hao and her two co-workers, they contracted to demolish the church to make way for expansion of a steel plant. To justify destroying the church, the local religious affairs department issued a notice in July last year stating that because the church was too close to a power plant, it had to be demolished. Amidst the separation from his mother and the church demolition, Paul stated that he and his brother are at peace. “We have faith in God that he will never give us a trial that we cannot bear.”
Si said Hao refuses to plead guilty and if convicted, faces a minimum of 10 years in prison. He expressed concern that a conviction could set a precedent for CCP authorities to use charges of financial irregularities to prosecute other house church leaders.
Sources: ChinaAid, South China Morning Post
- Remember Hao, her sons and her fellow church members. Pray they will continue to rely on the Lord and His purposes and not lose heart.
- Pray that God will sustain Hao while in prison and ask Him to provide her with spiritual enrichment while she endures. Ask God to hasten her trial and secure her release.
- Pray for the authorities responsible; that they will not fear the Gospel but will submit to the Lord’s merciful and sovereign hand.
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