Hunan, Protestant pastor arrested for 'subversion against the state'
by Wang Zhicheng

Pastor Zhao Huaiguo is the founder of the Bethel Church. A year ago the community was declared outlawed because it refused to join the Three Self Movement, the official Protestant community. The campaign to destroy underground Protestant communities.

Beijing (AsiaNews) - Protestant pastor Zhao Huaiguo was arrested in Hunan for "inciting subversion against state power". The charge is used in China against dissidents or against those who do not cross the lines established by the Chinese Communist Party.

Zhang Xinghong, the pastor's wife, says her husband’s arrest is likely due to the fact that Zhao spoke to some foreign news agencies about the coronavirus in China, or that he resisted joining the official Protestant Church.

Zhao was taken from his home on March 15 and was officially arrested on April 2. The police returned to Zhao's apartment on April 15 and seized books, bibles, photocopies in an attempt to convict him of "illegal trade" in books.

Zhao Huaiguo founded the Bethel Church in Cili, near the city of Zhangjiajie (Hunan) in 2007. Last year his community was declared outlawed because it did not integrate into the Three Self Movement, the umbrella group for all the official Protestant denominations, under the leadership of the Party.

Some estimates claim there are about 80 million Protestants in China. Of these, only 23 million join the Three Self Movement, considered by others to be an easy tool in the hands of the atheist government. For many years the Communist Party has launched a campaign to eliminate underground Protestant communities if they do not submit to the official channel.

Last December, the government sentenced Pastor Wang Yi of the Early Rain Covenant Church.