Chinese Church Elder Sentenced to 4 Years in Prison for Possessing Christian Books; Founding Pastor of Early Rain Covenant Expected to Be Sentenced by Christmas

A church elder in China has been sentenced to four years in prison after being charged with “illegal business operations” for possessing books for the shuttered Chinese Christian megachurch, Early Rain Covenant.

The Christian Post has reported that “Qin Defu was sentenced to prison due to his involvement with 20,000 Christian books used by the 5,000-member church.”

The media outlet relied on information from ChinaAid, led by Bob Fu, who also serves on the board of directors for Save the Persecuted Christians (STPC).

The elder, Qin Defu, and his pastor, Wang Yi, founder of Early Rain, were arrested just over a year ago on Dec. 9, 2018, along with about 100 additional congregants. While the pastor’s wife and most others were released, Wang and Qin are still being detained. In fact, Wang was taken to an undisclosed location, and his lawyers and family have been unable to locate the pastor, even after a year.

As Wang awaits his own sentencing, a recent, new charge of “illegal business activity” could carry up to 10 years in prison, The Christian Post previously reported. Wang had already been charged with “inciting subversion.” Advocates say his sentencing could come on or near Christmas Day.

“At brother Qin’s trial,” said Wang’s lawyer, “we learned that the charge of ‘illegal business operations’ only concerned 20,000 books for the church’s own use (most of these were small gospel tracts like ‘The Good News You Don’t Want to Hear’), and Pastor Wang Yi actively took most of the responsibility for this in his testimony. Based on this, I estimate that Pastor Wang Yi will be sentenced to no less than 10 years in prison.”

The Christian Post also reported that according to the U.N.’s Human Rights Council working group, it is estimated that up to 13 members of the church are still being detained. The targeting of Early Rain Covenant Church comes amid the Chinese Communist Party’s ongoing crackdown on religion. In May, authorities also shut down Shouwang Church in Beijing, said to have been attended by over 1,000 people.

Leaders of STPC, which advocates on behalf of hundreds of millions of Christians facing heavy persecution worldwide, is increasingly concerned about ongoing severe persecution of people of many faiths in China.

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SOURCE: Charisma News