A prominent house church pastor in southwest China’s Guizhou province has been sentenced to two and a half years in prison after being tortured into “confessing” charges related to “divulging state secrets.”
The South China Morning Post reported on Sunday that 39-year old Li Guozhi, also known as Pastor Yang Hua with the Living Stone Church, will seek an appeal over the verdict, which was announced last week.
Yang has been detained since December 2015, when government officials accused him of trying to prevent authorities from taking his computer and hard drive during a raid on the house church.
Shandong-based lawyer Zhao Yonglin has accused Communist Party officials of ordering the pastor to be tortured and verbally abused into making confessions last year, although prosecutors have denied this.
“The so-called state secret was a document prepared by a temporary city administrative task force calling for the destruction of Living Stone Church. But the decision itself was illegal and should have been exposed instead,” Zhao said.
Living Stone was shut down last year, with officials sealing the church’s office and suspending its bank accounts.
Chen Jiangang, another lawyer for the pastor, said the heart of the case is not about the spying charges, but the ongoing political persecution in China carried out by the government.
“Even a day in jail is too much for an innocent person,” Chen told Radio Free Asia. “I have only one thing to say about this. This isn’t a judgement: it’s persecution.”
“This is a political case that has nothing to do with the law or the truth,” he added. “This is political persecution pure and simple.”
Persecution watchdog groups, such as China Aid, strongly condemned Yang’s sentencing.
SOURCE: The Christian Post – Stoyan Zaimov