On 25 February, Pastor Bao Guohua and his wife Xing Wenxiang were convicted of the criminal charges of “corruption” and “gathering people to disturb social order” and sentenced to 14 and 12 years in prison respectively.
According to media reports, Bao, Xing
and their son Bao Chenxing were detained on 26 July 2015 and held for six
months before being sentenced. In addition to their sentences, the court has
ordered that assets totaling 600,000 yuan (approximately $92,000) in value be
confiscated from each of them.
In addition, Boa has been fined 100,000
yuan (approximately $15,000) and Xing has been fined 90,000 yuan (approximately
$14,000). The corruption charges against them pertain to the alleged embezzling
of money from their congregation.
Bao Guohua is pastor of Jinhua
Christian Church in Jinhua City, Zhejiang Province. He is also a member of the
China Christian Council (CCC), one of two state sanctioned associations which
oversee Protestantism nationwide. Pastor Bao is one of several pastors from
government-approved religious organisations who have spoken out against the
demolition of hundreds of crosses in Zhejiang Province since early 2014.
It is reported that up to 10 other
church members from Bao’s church have been sentenced, as well as his son, Bao
Chenxing, who is reported to have been sentenced to 3 years in prison. Further
information is unavailable at this time.
The sentencing of the Jinhua Church
members occurred the same week that state media broadcast the televised
“confession” of the prominent human rights lawyer Zhang Kai, in which he
admitted to “disturbing social order”, “endangering state security” and
behaving in an unprofessional manner. He has now been criminally detained.
Zhang had been providing legal advice
and support to Christians in Zhejiang Province prior to his detention on 25
August 2015. Before his criminal detention, Zhang had already spent six months
detained under the measure “residential surveillance at a designated location”.
Mervyn Thomas, Chief Executive of
Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), said, “We are deeply concerned to hear of
the sentencing of Bao Guohua and Xing Wenxiang. The authorities have claimed
that the forced
removal of hundreds of crosses from churches in Zhejiang Province is aimed
at illegal structures and is nothing to do with religion; yet pastors and
Christians who have peacefully opposed the cross removals have been detained
and in some cases given long prison sentences. Pastor Bao, and Pastors Li
Guanzhong and Gu Yuese detained in
January this year, are accused of various crimes, but all have one thing in
common: they opposed the removal of crosses from Zhejiang churches. We call on
the Chinese authorities to release immediately all those detained in connection
with their peaceful opposition to restrictions on their religious freedom, and
to uphold the right to freedom of religion or belief for people of all faiths