Nine years for & # 39; subversion & # 39 ;: Protestant pastor convicted in China | China news

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China sentenced a prominent pastor who operated outside the Protestant organization recognized by the Communist Party to nine years in prison for subversion.

Wang Yi led the Early Rainfall Covenant Church and was arrested a year ago during China's repression against all unauthorized religious groups in the country.

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The government requires that Protestants worship only in churches recognized and regulated by the Patriotic Movement of the Three Authors.

A separate body regulates the Catholic church in China, which has no formal relations with the Vatican.

The Intermediate People's Court in the southwestern city of Chengdu on Monday condemned Wang for inciting subverting state power and his participation in illegal commercial operations and said he was fined and that his personal property was seized.

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If Weijiang, a lawyer hired by Wang's mother, said the charge of illegal business operations involved the printing of books on Christian culture.

"It's really about freedom of publication and there has been no social harm," Si said in a telephone interview.

The incitement charge "implies preaching and is a matter of discourse, which has not caused social harm," he said.

Even within the narrow limits it has established, the officially atheist ruling party of China has been trying to contain religious expression, including the elimination of crosses from official and unofficial churches.

More broadly, the party demolished places of worship, excluded Tibetan children from Buddhist religious studies and imprisoned more than one million members of Islamic ethnic minorities in what are called "reeducation centers."

It is believed that Early Rain had several hundred members who gathered in different places around Chengdu, the vast capital of Sichuan Province. Many of them were taken from their homes overnight in lightning strikes, including Wang's wife, Jiang Rong, who was later released on bail.

Wang had criticized the leader of the Communist Party and the president of the state, Xi Jinping, and proposed to hold a prayer service on June 4 of each year to commemorate the bloody assault of 1989 against prodemocratic protesters in Beijing's Tiananmen Square.

China carried out repression against religion in recent years while its citizens struggle to fill their ideological vacuum (Qilai Shen / EPA)

Beijing's hard line on religion has underlined its contrast with other culturally Chinese societies, such as Hong Kong and Taiwan, where most follow Buddhism and traditional Chinese beliefs, but where Christianity and other religions also thrive.

At least two Early Rain members fled to Taiwan, the autonomous island democracy that China claims as its own territory.

Wang's sentence was condemned by Amnesty International investigator in China, Patrick Poon, for "mocking China's alleged religious freedoms."

"Wang Yi simply practiced his religion and peacefully defended human rights in China," Poon said in a statement sent via email.

"Wang Yi is a prisoner of conscience and must be released immediately and unconditionally."