Chinese Christians Who Were Arrested for Traveling to a Gospel Conference Released from Prison
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The remaining two Chinese Christians, who were imprisoned along with three other Christian leaders for "illegally crossing the national border," have been released from jail.
China Aid, an international non-profit Christian human rights organization, reports Zhang Ligong and Wang Runyun were released on March 27.
Runyun posted on social media, "Dear family, we are back home safely. Thank you for your prayers. I am very grateful!"
The three other men who were also arrested, tried, and convicted, include Zhang Yaowen and Wang Shiqiang. They were released on Feb. 27 after serving seven-month sentences. Song Shoushan, who was sentenced to six months, was released on Jan. 27
As CBN News reported last August, the five men, all members of the Zion Reformed Church, a house church in Taiyuan, were arrested because they attended the "KL2020 Gospel and Culture" conference in January of 2020. Using their valid passports and visas, they flew to Malaysia to hear from prominent speakers such as Pastor Tim Keller and Pastor D.A. Carson.
The five Christians were tried on trumped-up charges in the Fenyang People's Court on Dec. 28. Officials allowed lawyers and family members to attend the court session. They even shared the gospel with the judge and gave everyone in attendance an opportunity to know God according to China Aid.
On Jan. 7, the court handed down its ruling. In addition to the sentences handed down that included time served, the men were also fined. Ligong and Wang Runyun were fined the equivalent of $475 U.S. dollars. Shiqiang received a fine totaling $396 U.S. dollars. And Yaowen and Shoushan, each received a fine amounting to $316 U.S. dollars.
The house church's preacher, An Yankui, along with another church member Zhang Chenghao, remain in custody. No date for their trial has been scheduled. The two were arrested last November on the same illegal border crossing charge for attending the conference. Though they departed and returned to China through customs with their passports, the Chinese government still regarded their trip as illegal and hit them with fabricated charges, according to the watchdog International Christian Concern.
Due to their close relationship with Early Rain Covenant Church (ERCC), the Taiyuan church has become a main target of the Religious Affairs Bureau, National Security agents, and Public Security Bureau in Shanxi province, China Aid reports. The human rights organization said the province has become a persecution hotspot.
As CBN News has reported over the past several years, China's communist regime continues its extreme measures to crack down on Christians and other religious groups in China.
Pastor Wang Yi, who led the ERCC, was taken into custody in December of 2018 after his home was raided and ransacked by police. The raid may have been triggered by a 7,300 words manifesto titled "Meditations on the Religious War," which Pastor Wang wrote and posted on social media.
In it, he condemned China's Communist Party and urges Christians to perform acts of civil disobedience.
Wang criticized the government for forcing its citizens to engage in "Caesar worship" by treating President Xi Jinping like a god. He wrote that this ideology "is morally incompatible with the Christian faith and all those who uphold freedom of the mind and thought."
The prominent pastor was sentenced to nine years in prison on charges of "inciting subversion of state power" and "illegal business operations."
The pastor's wife, Jiang Rong, was released in June of 2019.
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