by Karen Faulkner, Worthy News Correspondent
(Worthy News) – A pastor in the Hunan province of China was arrested on April 2 for suspected subversion of state power. Persecution watchdog International Christian Concern (ICC) reports that the pastor was arrested after his church refused to join a government-approved religious organization.
At the time of his arrest, Pastor Zhao Huaiguo had been leading the Bethel Church he founded in Cili County for 13 years. The church was banned by the government last year after it refused to join the state-sanctioned Three-Self Church, a protestant organization overseen by the Communist Party of China.
In a statement about the case, Gina Goh, ICC Regional Manager for Southeast Asia, said, “For the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) to slap the charge of ‘inciting subversion of state power’ on Pastor Zhao, typically used against human rights lawyers and activists, it shows how the regime is fearful of anybody who is disobedient to the CCP. The laws in China now have become tools for the government to silence and weaken its citizens’ influence, even in a religious setting. The lack of rule of law in China should gravely concern the international community.”
According to ICC, government authorities raided the church on April 10 last year, damaging and removing church property and confiscating Bibles and hymn books. Pastor Zhao was questioned and warned. A China Aid report, seen by ICC, contains the testimony of a local Christian who said the pastor was “accused of proselytizing and distributing Gospel tracts, which were considered illegal acts. After Lunar New Year last year, the religious bureau forced the church to disperse, to which it refused. The official ban arrived last April.”
Bethel members have reported to China Aid a pattern of harassment that continued from March to December 2019. Preachers were taken for questioning and forced to sign an agreement that they would stop preaching and holding services.
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