Pastor Wang Yi sentenced to 9 years in prison for 'subversion'
The founder of the Early Rain Covenant Church was also convicted of "illegal trade": his community prints and distributes religious books in Chinese society. The sentence was issued this morning; the trial was held on December 26th. No member of the community or family member was allowed to attend the trial. For Wang Yi, the persecution of Christians "is the most horrendous evil in Chinese society" because it deprives the population of hope and future.
Chengdu (AsiaNews) - Pastor Wang Yi, founder of the Early Rain Covenant Church, has been sentenced to 9 years in prison for "inciting subversion of state power" and for "illegal trade".
Wang was arrested in December 2018, along with 100 other members of his community in various locations in the Chengdu (Sichuan) district. After nearly a year of pre-trial detention, the Chengdu Intermediate People's Court today issued the sentence. The trial was held on December 26th. According to several witnesses, the court was surrounded by a police cordon and there were only lawyers in the courtroom. No member of the Church, nor the relatives of the accused, was allowed to be present.
In addition to the nine-year sentence, Wang will be denied political rights for three years and his personal assets, which are around 50,000 yuan (about 6,300 euros), will be confiscated.
The sentence for "subversion" is explained by Wang Yi’s standing as a public figure and his activism, already a democratic activist at the time of the Tiananmen massacre, he later converted to Christianity and became pastor of the Early Rain Covenant Church. Defined by many as "the bravest" religious leader in China, Wang Yi branded the new regulations on religious activities as a tool to stifle religious freedom.
Recently, Wang Yi had also thrown himself against the "cult of Caesar", after patriotic associations forced Christians to display - often on the altars - the photo of President Xi Jinping.
As for the "illegal trade" charge, it is linked to the fact that the community prints religious books and distributes them among its members and in Chinese society.
During the detention period, a letter was circulated to his community, which Wang Yi had written in anticipation of his arrest. In the text, he says he is "full of anger and disgust because of the persecution of the church by the communist regime, and of the wickedness in depriving people of freedom of religion and conscience". At the same time, he says he has no desire to change China's social order, but he does uphold the freedom to announce the Gospel.
For Wang, the persecution of Christians is pushing many Chinese people to "lose faith in their future, leading them to a desert of spiritual disillusionment and through this, to know Jesus".
The persecution of Christians, he says, "is the most horrendous evil in Chinese society." “All this - he explains - is not just a sin against Christians. It is also a sin against non-Christians. Because [in this way] the government threatens them in a rough and brutal mode preventing them from coming to Jesus. In the world there is no worse evil than this ".
The Early Rain Covenant Church has about 500 members and 300 sympathizers. Unlike many underground Protestant churches, its members practice faith openly; spread sermons and online studies; they evangelize on the streets of the city; they have a seminar to teach future pastors and a primary school for 40 children.