» 02/26/2016, 12.38
Zhejiang Protestant pastor sentenced to 14 years for defending Cross
Bao Guohua, his wife and 10 other Jinhua Protestant faithful guilty of "embezzlement, disturbing public order, illegal commercial activities, concealment of financial documents and bills." He had hired 11 lawyers to prevent the demolition of the sacred symbol from his church. Televised “confession" of lawyer Zhang Kai: "I wanted money and fame, I have used religion to make myself known. Foreigners incited me against the government. "
Wenzhou (AsiaNews) - A court in Jinhua, (金华) in the eastern province of Zhejiang, has sentenced 12 followers of a local Protestant church to several years in prison. The heaviest sentence was handed down to the Pastor Guohua Bao (包 国 华), who will have to serve 14 years in prison for "embezzlement, disturbance of public order, illegal commercial activities, concealment of financial documents and invoices" (职务侵占罪、聚众扰乱社会秩序罪、非法经营罪以及隐匿会计凭证、会计账簿、财务会计报告罪). His wife Xing Wenxiang (邢文 香) was found guilty of the same charges and sentenced to 10 years. The other 10 defendants received a lighter sentence.
The state media began its campaign against Bao Guohua in August 2015. The Jinhua Daily, local paper that responds to the authorities, published a front-page story about the couple on August 4: the article accuses the two of dipping into church funds to make money, robbing from faithful, buying cars and various properties and "leading a luxurious life".
The article also said that during an inspection by the Office for Religious Affairs, the pastor asked the auditors to hide accounting documents and receipts. Finally, the author argues that despite the couples "austere appearance in public", the police found a secret room full of cash and jewelry during a search of their house.
Until his arrest, the pastor Bao Guohua led the church of Holy Love - known as Sheng'aitang, affiliated to that of Jinhua - and had hired 11 lawyers as advisers to prevent the removal of their cross in June 2015. After the detention, the couple was prevented from seeing their lawyer assumed. Even Joseph Gu (顾 约瑟), pastor of the church Chonqyi Hangzhou, faces charges of embezzlement: He was arrested in January 2016.
Meanwhile, the well-known lawyer Zhang Kai, who has dedicated himself and his work to protecting the crosses of the churches in Wenzhou, appeared on television to "confess." In the video he states that "he wanted to make money and become famous" (一方面 想赚 点钱, 一方面 想 赚点 名气). To achieve this dual goal Zhang insitagted "public sentiment against the government" inciting illegal assemblies.
Zhang, continues the service, "he urged the faithful to ignore the authority of the state to prevent the demolition of illegal buildings of the churches." The report said Zhang incited the faiths deterring authorities the demolition of illegal church buildings. He was accused that he described the demolition of illegal buildings according to the law as the religion persecution by this report.
His assistant Liu Peng (刘鹏) in detention as well accused Zhang Kai that he sought his illegal purpose regardless the litigant's interests. The report said that Zhang Kai was endorsed by foreign organizations.
"Such religion cases are sensitive, they can lift my fame quickly and bring some economic interest. Foreign countries also focus on the cases, it also improves my fame overseas.", said Zhang on television. (这类宗教案件都很敏感，也可以迅速提高我的名气，也可以有一些经济利益，并且境外也非常关注这一类案件，也可以提高我在国际上的名气。)
Zhang Kai expressed his repentance on the report, he said foreign organizations attacked and criticized Chinese government and the human rights condition, exploited him to hype up the cases. Finally, the report said for his attitude of his confession, the police was considering "changing the coercive measures according to the law." (依法变更强制措施)
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The Protestant minister Gu Yuese (official) is the head of Chongyi, the largest Protestant community in the country with about 10 thousand faithful. He was arrested by police on charges of "embezzlement". He had publically opposed the demolition of crosses in Zhejiang and defended the rights of the church. His arrest could kick off a new wave of persecution against Christians.
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After appearing on television to "confess his crimes" and spending six months under "house arrest", the lawyer was released. Together with activists for civil liberties, he defended the Christian churches against Zhejiang province authorities.
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