The pastor of Early Rain Covenant Church in China is facing new charges from the communist government seven months after he was arrested alongside 100 members of his congregation.
In addition to “inciting subversion” and attempting to turn people against the Chinese government, Pastor Wang Yi, who was arrested in December, has now been charged with “illegal business activity,” Radio Free Asia reports
The leader of Early Rain Church in Sichuan province in China has been detained since 9th December 2018, when he was taken with his wife Jiang Rong, who has since been released.
He predicted his imprisonment, writing in a letter in September 2018 about his willingness to die for the gospel.
He was detained along with over 100 other members of Early Rain Covenant Church, many of whom have since been released on bail but the pastor and several others remain in detention for now more than seven months.
Pastor Wang Yi’s lawyer hasn’t been allowed to see him since his detention.
According to pastor Wang Yi’s lawyer Zhang Peihong, in addition to being charged for “incitement to subvert state power,” Chinese authorities are now investigating Early Rain Covenant Church (ERCC) pastor Wang Yi on charge of “illegal business activities.”
In a recent Facebook post, Zhang gave an update of Wang’s status, stating that the authorities recently turned down a request for a meeting with his client, who has lost weight while in detention, but whose mental state is stable.
Pastor Wang Yi, along with many of his ERCC members, are victims of a government crackdown starting from December 9, 2018. While most of the detained members have been released or put under house arrest, including his wife Jiang Rong, he remains behind bars. No one has been able to visit him or know his location so far.
A local Christian who asked for anonymity told Radio Free Asia that the “illegal business” charge is likely due to the fact that there is scant evidence to support the subversion charge.
“They want to charge Pastor Wang Yi with inciting subversion, but even they know that this isn’t a very persuasive accusation,” the person said. “So they are hoping for a breakthrough using economic [crimes].”
The other two ERCC elders who are still criminally detained, Li Yingqiang and Qin Defu, are also accused of “picking quarrels and stirring up trouble,” and “running an illegal business.”
In addition, more than half of church members are currently under surveillance, with their phones and WeChat accounts being monitored, according to local source.
China ranks 27th on Christian support organization Open Doors 2019 World Watch list of the 50 countries where it is most difficult to be a Christian.