The pastor and co-worker of the Beijing Lampstand Church were accused of 'illegal business operations'
Members of a house church in Shunyi, Beijing participate in a prayer gathering in this undated file image. (Photo: wikiwand.com)
A court in China’s Shandong province handed down jail terms to a pastor and a co-worker of an independent house church for alleged “illegal business operations.”
Pastor Qin Sifeng and co-worker Su Minjun of Beijing Lampstand Church were sentenced to five and a half years, and three and half years respectively, ChinaAid reported on June 6.
Although their trial was held in April, the verdict has been made public recently, the report said.
They were arrested in July last year while they were traveling to Yunan province. The next month, police at Zibo in Shandong charged them with illegal business operations and detained them at Zibo Detention Center.
Local Christians said the arrest of Qin and Su came after the church printed some hymnals and theological materials for internal use. Local police started a probe leading to their detention.
Witnesses told ChinaAid that during the trial the defendants were treated like “hardened criminals” as they appeared in the court handcuffed and manacled. The court dismissed the plea of innocence handed by their lawyer.
The court verdict was approved by high-level state officials before the pronouncement.
Pastor Qin Sifeng said he still feels upbeat despite his imprisonment.
He said this is “an opportunity to spread the Gospel."
Some reports suggest many pastors and Christians serving jail sentences continue to preach in prison. The act sometimes yields good results, earning respect from prison guards, while others are prevented from doing so in prison.
Article 36 of China's constitution guarantees freedom of religious belief, but that freedom is seriously limited by the requirement that congregations adapt their "theology, conception, and organization" to socialist principles, according to Human Rights Watch.
The Communist and officially atheist state continues to violate the right to freedom of religion through various forms of persecution including harassment, torture, arrest, and long-term imprisonment of religious adherents and leaders.
US-based Christian group Open Doors ranks China 16th among the 50 countries in the world where it is most difficult to be a Christian.
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