Pastor Wang Yi, a prominent voice in China’s Christian community, has been sentenced to nine years in prison. He was charged with “subversion of power” and “illegal business operations,” though he was first arrested last year during a crackdown on unregistered churches. Wang has denied the charges.
Wang led Early Rain Covenant Church, one of the largest unregistered churches in the country, drawing nearly 5,000 parishioners. The country’s ruling communist party requires that Protestant churches be regulated and registered with the government.
During the initial raid of the church last year more than 100 church members were detained. Many were released shortly after, however many were forced to sign documents in which they pledged not to go to the church again.
Recently, Wang released a statement called “My Declaration of Faithful Disobedience” in which he explained, “I firmly believe this is a spiritual act of disobedience. In modern authoritarian regimes that persecute the church and oppose the gospel, spiritual disobedience is an inevitable part of the gospel movement.”
In recent years, China has increased its crackdown on Christian churches.
Patrick Poon, China researcher at Amnesty International, has called for his release writing, “Today’s verdict makes a mockery of China’s supposed religious freedoms. Wang Yi was merely practicing his religion and peacefully standing up for human rights in China. This nine-year sentence is appalling and unjust. Wang Yi is a prisoner of conscience and must be immediately and unconditionally released.”