Pastor Gu Yuese (also known as Joseph Gu) of the state-sanctioned Chongyi Church in Zhejiang Province was detained on 27 January and placed under "residential surveillance at a designated location". Gu was publicly opposed to forced cross removals from churches in the province.
Earlier this month, Pastor Gu was dismissed from
his post as senior pastor of the state-sanctioned Chongyi Church in
Hangzhou. Chongyi Church is reported to be one of the largest, if not the largest,
registered church in China. Pastor Gu is also the chair of the Zhejiang branch
of the China Christian Council (CCC), a state-sanctioned religious organization
which, along with the Three Self Patriotic Movement (TSPM), oversees the
practices and organisation of registered churches in China.
According to ChinaChange.org,
until now Gu has played a role as a mediator between the government and the
churches. His dismissal and detention are believed to be linked to his public
opposition to the authorities’ removal of hundreds of crosses from Zhejiang
churches, and in particular an open letter opposing the cross removals, which was
published by the Zhejiang China Christian Council in July 2015.
Gu has been placed under "designated
surveillance at a designated location", under which he can be held for up
to six months without formal arrest. On 29 January, the local state TPSM and
CCC issued a notice
stating that Pastor Gu is assisting the authorities with an investigation into
suspicions of embezzlement and financial problems. On, 31 January
ChinaChange.org reported that he has been accused of misusing 10 million
"Designated surveillance at a designated
location” is a measure used against many of the human rights lawyers detained
in China’s sweeping arrests of over 300 human rights lawyers and activists,
which began in July 2015. As the six-month limit expires, many detainees are
being formally arrested on security-related charges. On 29 January, lawyer Tang
Jingling, a Christian human rights lawyer, was convicted of "inciting
subversion of state power" and sentenced to five years in prison.
The two activists arrested with him were
sentenced to two-and-a-half years and three-and-a-half years in prison on the
same charge. In November 2014, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention
found that their detention was “conducted as a result of their legitimate
exercise of the rights or freedoms”, and stated that the three should be
released immediately. Tang’s lawyer managed to meet with him in September 2015
and reported that he has not been allowed access to a Bible, his private
correspondence, or medical treatment. At least 16 others have been arrested on
suspicion of subverting state power or inciting subversion so far this year.
Mervyn Thomas, Chief Executive of Christian
Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), said, “We are deeply concerned by Pastor Gu Yuese’s
detention. As several sources have observed, his detention appears to be linked
to his opposition to the forced removal of crosses in his Zhejiang Province. In
opposing this campaign, Pastor Gu voiced the concerns and sentiments of
Christians cross the province. His dismissal and detention send an extremely
worrying message that criticism of the authorities’ policy on religious affairs
will not be tolerated, even from those within the state-sanctioned structure.
Lawyer Tang’s sentencing is another example of authorities’ intolerance of
freedom of expression and the defence of human rights. We urge the authorities
to release Pastor Gu and lawyer Tang, and the many others detained for their
defence of human rights and freedom of religion or belief.”