Chinese pastor faces decade in prison for resisting church crackdown

Cross being removed from Yahui Church in Pingyang County, Wenzhou City, China.ICC video screenshot

A Chinese pastor faces up to 10 years in prison for "gathering to assault a state organ", having condemned state officials attempting to remove his church's cross.

Huang Yizi, 40, was arrested by police from his home in Wenzhou on August 2, the Telegraph reports.

His arrest is thought to be in connection with arranging a protest against the removal of the cross from Salvation church, Wenzhou. It follows a crackdown on a number of churches in Zhejiang province in eastern China.

There were several threats to remove the church's cross throughout July, and on 21 July 1,000 church members formed a human shield around the building.

About 50 church members were injured in a clash with police, who beat back the protestors with electric batons. Despite their attempts, the cross was eventually removed by state police on August 14.

Since January, state officials have removed crosses from at least 229 churches. Some churches have been entirely demolished, and the government has issued demolition notices to more than 100 churches.

Pastor Huang had criticised the demolitions on a blog, saying they were an example of "severe persecution" and an "insult" to China's Christians.

In an interview with the South China Morning Post before his detention, Huang said he was prepared to face jail for his faith.

"I have decided to sacrifice for my beliefs. I am serious. I have been prepared for the worst since I posted many messages opposing the authorities' campaign to remove churches and crosses," he said.

"I know I will be put in jail one day. The authorities detained me twice in April, but they released me under public pressure. That just meant the time was not yet right."

Other preachers and church members have been held by police, though none for as long as Huang, and none face a sentence of such severity.

Lawyers involved in the case said Pastor Huang's charge was typical of those used to silence protestors.

Zhejiang has a large Christian population, and Wenzhou is often described as 'the Jerusalem of the East".

In Hunan province in central China, at least ten house church leaders have been detained, ChinaAid reports.

The detentions began on August 7, and it appears that police continued to take people into custody in the following week on the grounds that they had "organised cults, sects and used superstition to undermine law enforcement".