Chinese government demands jailed pastor turn over church income

A house-church pastor in China who was jailed by the government for failing to turn over church income to bureaucrats is going to court to have the “wrongly imposed” penalty rescinded.

China Aid, which supports Christians in the communist nation, said Li Guozhi, who also is known as Yang Hua, was the pastor of Huoshi Church, the largest house church in Guiyang, Guizhou.

He was targeted by government officials using a standard charge, “divulging state secrets,” and sentenced to 30 months in prison.

Additionally, the government fined him and another of the church’s pastors, Su Tianfu, 7 million yuan, or $1 million, an amount the officials claimed the church had received as ‘”illegal income.”

“However, Su and Yang claim that church members donated their money voluntarily to the church and argued that it was the church’s income, not their own, so there is no ground for administrative action.”

Yang now has sued the Nanming District Religious Affairs Bureau of the Chinese government, we well as the Guiyang Municipal Ethnic and Religious Committee, for abusing religious freedom.

He cites Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which states: “Everyone shall have the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion. This right shall include freedom to have or to adopt a religion or belief of his choice, and freedom, either individually or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in worship, observance, practice and teaching.”

The international pact also provides that “no one shall be subject to coercion which would impair his freedom to have or to adopt a religion or belief of his choice.”

And he noted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights has similar protections and is binding on governments that have signed it, which includes the Chinese government.

Further, Article 33 of the Chinese Constitution says the state “respects and preserves human rights,” and Article 36 of the constitution says citizens of the People’s Republic of China “enjoy freedom of religious belief.”

“No state organ, public organization or individual may compel citizens to believe in, or not believe in, any religion; nor may they discriminate against citizens who believe in, or do not believe in, any religion. The state protects normal religious activities,'” the Chinese Constitution says, according to China Aid’s translation.

The church, with about 500 participants, has met since 2009 and “has never been involved in ‘activities that disrupt the social order, cause harm to the physical health of citizens, or interfere with China’s education system,'” the lawsuit said.

The money was from offerings “made voluntarily and all used to cover Huoshi Church’s corporate expenses.”

The church expenses have included disaster relief, educational programs, support for seniors, funerals and rent, it said.

A government agency hired an accounting firm to look at the church and found income from May 2009 to November 2015 was $757,168.17, while expenses were $965,084.58.

“Since the church’s expenses exceed its income, where does plaintiff Li Guozhi’s ‘illegal income’ come from?” the complaint asks.

Su has submitted his own legal challenge to the governmental actions.

( Source )