China Sentences Pastor to 14 Years In Prison For Resisting Cross Removal
As China's authorities continue to crack down on Christian churches in the Zhejiang province, a court has sentenced a Protestant pastor to 14 years in prison and his wife to 12 years in prison, according to Chinese media.
Bao Guohua, a government-approved pastor, and his wife, Xing Wenxiang, were convicted of corruption, financial crimes and gathering people to disturb social order, the Zhejiang Daily newspaper reported Friday, according to the New York Times.
House church leader Zheng Leguo told the New York Times that the couple, who was arrested last August, was targeted for their efforts to defend their church against an order to remove its cross.
The court has fined Bao and his wife more than $20,000 and confiscated close to $92,000 from each of them, the newspaper reported.
The court has sentenced an additional 10 people who were members of Mr. Bao's church but did not give details of those sentences.
The arrests come at a time of increased persecution in China. A Human Rights Watch reports in 2015, authorities began removing crosses from churches and "in some cases demolished entire churches in Zhejiang Province, considered the heartland of Chinese Christianity."
"At least a hundred Christians have reportedly been briefly detained for resisting the demolitions since the start of the campaign in early 2014," the report adds.
Chinese authorities are planning to step up monitoring efforts by requiring Roman Catholic officials to carry ID cards stating their religious affiliation or losing the right to preach, The Christian Post reports.
The U.S.-based group International Christian Concern told The Christian Post that it's distressing "to hear of the Nazi-like identification credentials for Christian leaders in China. Our concern is that this new requirement will force many churches and their leaders underground."
Authorities have taken down over 1,200 crosses from churches and other buildings for violating strict guidelines for where and how churches in Zhejiang can display crosses. The regulation was implemented last May.