By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent Worthy News
BEIJING (Worthy News) – Christians say they “appreciate prayers” for two jailed elders of an independent church in China’s southwestern province of Sichuan as one of them met a lawyer six months after his arrest.
Elder Hao Ming of the Early Rain Qingcaodi Church (ERQC) was “finally able” to meet his lawyer in the Deyang City Detention Centre, according to Christians familiar with the case.
The frail man, whose life may be at risk due to his rapidly declining health, was arrested on November 17 when police raided the ERQC in Sichuan’s city of Deyang, Christians said.
Elder Wu Jiannan, detained at the same time as Elder Hao, is also awaiting trial from the Deyang City Procuratorate, sources said.
Elder Wu’s wife, Cui Yanqin, said on social media that she was “thanking Christians for their prayers.” Though her husband lost a lot of weight, he remains joyful, she added in comments shared with Worthy News.
Elder Hao’s wife, Yang Yufeng, reportedly said the retired pastor is “in very poor health” and, without needed medical treatment, his life may be at risk.
However, because the detention center had been locked down due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Hao was not allowed to leave the premises to obtain treatment, she added.
In published remarks, Yang asked “for prayer that God would move the authorities to release him or allow bail so that he might receive the necessary treatment.”
The detentions are part of an ongoing crackdown by authorities on churches and house groups meeting outside denominations approved by China’s Communist leadership. Chinese Communist Party wants to maintain control over groups it deems dangerous to its ideology and power structure, Worthy News established.
The ERQC was founded by the umbrella Early Rain Covenant Church, which first began meeting as several small groups in 2006 and became an independent church in 2008.
In recent years, more than 200 members of the Calvinist-leaning Early Rain Covenant Church members were arrested, Christians said. And in 2019, its elder Qin Defu was sentenced to four years and pastor Wang Yi to nine years imprisonment.
In addition, church and personal properties were seized and destroyed, and many families faced repeated eviction from their homes or deportation to their hometowns in distant provinces, Christians said.
Advocacy group Voice Of the Martyrs Canada (VOMC) urged its supporters to “Please remember to pray for the arrested church members who are still in custody.” The group also asked for prayers for the ongoing church activities “along with many other Christian groups in China.”
Christianity in China continues to grow despite reported crackdowns, several rights groups suggest. Christians are at least over 5 percent of China’s 1.4 billion people, according to data cited by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), but other monitors suggest the actual figure is higher
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