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China jails Christians for attending religious event in Malaysia

Five Christians were jailed for illegal border crossing despite having valid travel documents while visiting Malaysia

UCA News reporter

UCA News reporter

Published: January 14, 2022 06:51 AM GMT

Updated: January 14, 2022 07:29 AM GMT

China jails Christians for attending religious event in Malaysia

Five Christians from Xuncheng Reformed Church, a house church in Taiyuan, are seen before their trial in Fenyang in Shanxi province of China. (Photo: China Aid) 

Five Chinese Christians who traveled to Malaysia with valid passports and visas to attend a religious conference in 2020 were handed jail terms on charges of illegal border crossing.

A court in Fenyang in Shanxi province of northern China convicted five members of Xuncheng Reformed Church, a house church in Taiyuan, and sentenced them to six, seven and eight months respectively on Jan. 7, reported China Aid. They were arrested last year and spent more than five months in a detention center.

The trial against Zhang Ligong, Wang Runyun, Wang Shiqiang, Zhang Yaowen and Song Shoushan began on Dec. 28 last year in the presence of their family members and lawyers. However, no verdict was announced immediately after the trial.

The convicts are members of the same church whose minister An Yankui and co-worker Zhang Chenghao were detained by police on Nov. 21 on a similar charge of illegal border crossing.

Pastor An and Zhang remain detained in Xiaoyi City Detention Center awaiting trial.

The church group visited Kuala Lumpur, the capital of Malaysia to attend the Gospel and Culture Conference on Jan. 28-31, 2020 organized by Pastor Stephen Tong Tjong Eng, a prominent and outspoken pastor known for his strong criticism of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) for its violation of religion freedom. His gospel conferences have attracted Christians from all over world.

The forcible conviction shows the arrogance and irrationality of the Chinese judicial system

Due to his condemnation of the CCP’s trampling of rights and freedom, Beijing has allegedly blocked Pastor Tong’s sermons from the internet in mainland China.

The conference in 2020 featured influential international speakers such as Pastor Tim Keller and Pastor D.A. Carson.

A lawyer who represented the Christians regretted that despite departing and entering the country with valid travel documents, the Christians were framed on fabricated charges of illegal border crossing.

Moreover, the Christians were held in prison for more than five months without trial, prompting the court to hastily open the trial as Chinese law stipulates that prison terms in such cases cannot exceed over a year.

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“The forcible conviction shows the arrogance and irrationality of the Chinese judicial system,” the unnamed lawyer said as quoted by China Aid.

It was not immediately known whether the Christians will appeal against the verdict.

International Christian Concern, a global watchdog monitoring persecution of Christians, noted that since Xi Jinping became the president of China religions have come under strict surveillance.

“Beijing has been wary of foreign influence since President Xi Jinping came into power. Religions that are seen as foreign, such as Islam and Christianity, are treated with more scrutiny and tightened control,” the group said after the jailing of the five Christians.

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