Date: November 11, 2020
|Pastor Juncai Li of the forcibly-demolished Yuanyang Church awaits verdict.
(Yuanyang County, Henan Province* China—Nov. 10, 2020) Pastor Juncai Li of the forcibly-demolished Yuanyang County Central House Church continues to await a court verdict for charges of crimes of position encroachment, obstruction of public affairs, and destruction of accounts. When the local court tried Pastor Juncai in August, the public prosecutor suggested a six and a half to nine and a half years prison sentence. At the end of the first trial, the court did not issue a verdict, but ruled to return the case to the local procurator for retrial.
In 2013, the Central House Church in Yuanyang County, at that time an officially recognized three-self church, broke away from the government and merged with a local house church. Chinese Communist Party (CCP) officials ordered that the church be forcibly demolished in early December 2019.
Earlier in 2019 on February 20, police had detained Pastor Juncai on suspicion of "obstruction of public affairs." He had refused to change a slogan in the church—“Love God and people”—to “Love the country and religion.” Officers also arrested three church staff members, Haoyun Wu, Yun Ban (female), and Yanfang Ma (female). One month later, Mr. Haoyun, Ms. Yun Ban, and Ms. Yanfang each obtained a guarantor pending their trials.
On February 21, 2019, Yuanyang County government authorities sent approximately 200 people, including policemen and officials from the Yuanyang County Bureau of Religious Affairs, to the Central House Church. There, they demolished the cross on the church and removed slogans inside the building that displayed sayings like, "Love your God," “Love God and people,” and “Love your neighbor.” Authorities also forced church members to raise a Chinese five-star, red flag.
Authorities forcibly demolished the Yuanyang County Central House Church in December 2019.
|Yuanyang Church, prior to being demolished, cost more than RMB 30 million yuan ($4,538,304 USD).
Typically, 700 to 800 believers had attended services Pastor Juncai led in the church, making it the biggest local house church in the area. Building the Yuanyang County Central House Church, completed in 2008, had cost approximately RMB 30 million yuan ($4,538,304 USD).
One believer, Mr. Zhang, said. “Officials from the local Ethnic and Religious Affairs Commission, policemen, and urban management officers showed up amidst the more than 500 people who attended church December 6, 2019. Several asked us to join a three-self church but we again refused. After demolishing the church, governmental officials ordered us to keep what happened secret. They blocked information so that only a few people knew about the forced church demolition.”
Authorities classified the church as an illegal building. Believers in the church, however, reported that the church had obtained all licenses required for building the church. One spokesperson said, “We have a land use permit, a construction project planning permit, as well as other legal certificates and a permit for religious sites, all issued by government supervisors. But—the government needs this land.”Regarding the case of Pastor Juncai, Mr. Wang, another local believer, said, “It has been almost three months since the first trial, and yet no sentence has been pronounced. At that time, the public prosecutor recommended to the court that the imprisonment term be six and a half to nine and a half years. Soon afterwards, however, the court ruled to return the case to the local procurator for retrial.”
Several legal professionals familiar with Pastor Juncai’s case maintain, “what Pastor Juncai has done does not constitute a crime. The charges by the authorities against him consist of unclear facts and insufficient evidence.”
Meanwhile, Pastor Juncai, detained since February 20, 2019, awaits the verdict anticipated in August 2020.*often referred to as Zhongyuan or Zhongzho
Reported by George, Special Correspondent of ChinaAid
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