Pastor Wang Yi, who leads the Early Rain Church in Chengdu, Sichuan province, China, has been sentenced to nine years in prison following his conviction on charges of ‘inciting to subvert state power’ and ‘illegal business operations’.
The Early Rain Church Facebook page links to a court statement and states that Pastor Wang Yi has been jailed for “proclaiming the gospel”. It also states that in addition to his nine-year prison sentence, the pastor is also deprived of his political rights for three years and has been fined 50,000 RMB (approximately 7,100 USD).
CSW’s Chief Executive Mervyn Thomas said: “CSW condemns the sentencing of Pastor Wang Yi, who has been convicted on baseless criminal charges simply for standing up for his beliefs. We call on the Chinese authorities to drop the charges against Pastor Wang and to release him and all remaining members of Early Rain Church from detention.”
Pastor Wang was detained along with over 100 other members of Early Rain Church on 9 December 2018, in a large-scale crackdown by the authorities. In August the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention adopted the opinion that the detention of Pastor Wang and his wife Jiang Rong, who has since been released on bail, was arbitrary.
In 2018, Pastor Wang criticised the government’s policy towards unregistered or independent churches (sometimes known as “house churches”) like Early Rain, and the revised regulations on religious affairs, introduced that year, which tightened the state’s control over religious activities, increasing the pressure on unregistered churches to either register or disband. He was detained overnight on 11 May 2018 and accused of “picking quarrels and causing trouble” after authorities detained or removed over 200 members of Early Rain Church in order to prevent them from holding a prayer vigil for victims of the Wenchuan earthquake of 2008.