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Chinese Christian pastor gets 14 years in jail

The sentencing of pastor Kan and four co-defendants is part of ongoing crackdown against unregistered religious groups
A pastor of an underground church conducts a Christmas Eve service at an apartment in Beijing on Dec. 24, 2014.

A pastor of an underground church conducts a Christmas Eve service at an apartment in Beijing on Dec. 24, 2014. (Photo: AFP)

Published: January 17, 2024 09:14 AM GMT
Updated: January 17, 2024 10:10 AM GMT

A court in communist-ruled China has sentenced a Protestant pastor to 14 years imprisonment for alleged involvement in "illegal business practices" amid an ongoing crackdown on religious groups that refuse to join government-controlled bodies, says a report.

The Ganjingzi District People’s Court in Liaoning province in northeast China sentenced pastor Kan Xiaoyong of Dalian House Church to 14 years in prison, Bitter Winter reported on Jan. 15.

Kan’s wife Wang Fengying was sentenced to four years, co-worker Chu Xinyu to ten years and other three defendants received three-year sentences during the Jan. 12 verdict.

Kan and his co-defendants were accused of several offenses including illegal business practices and the use of a xie jiao (banned cult).

The six-member defense team managed to have them declared not guilty of the charge of fraud, which would have carried even heavier penalties, the report said.

The team also expressed frustrations that Kan’s house church was considered a banned cult that could be accused of “heterodox teaching.”

China has banned dozens of controversial religious groups and movements including Falun Gong and the Church of Almighty God and listed them as xie jiao.

These cult groups are subjected to various forms of persecution including harassment, torture, and arrest, even killing, rights groups say.

The sentences for Kan and his co-defendants depict the ongoing crackdown on Protestant and evangelical churches in China that intensified since President Xi Jinping came to power in 2013, Bitter Winter reported.

Xi and other top leaders of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) have been pushing hard Christian churches to register with the Three-Self Church, a state-sanctioned body overseeing Protestant churches in the country.

Kan, a native of Wuhan, was a successful businessman and the descendant of a family connected with the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).

In 2018, at the age of 60, he left his secular career and established the Discipleship Home Network with his wife as a combination of online and offline evangelism.

His wife Wang Fengying had won national awards as a model schoolteacher and had also performed as a ballet dancer.

They went to Dalian to establish a church there. Their ministry was successful and became nationally famous in the house church circuit.

On October 20, 2021, Dalian house church was raided, and Pastor Kan and his wife were arrested. Four co-workers were also detained.

Both Kan and his wife were tortured for several days in a vain attempt to obtain their confession, Bitter Winter reported.

Evidence of the torture was presented by their lawyers at the trial but was dismissed by the judge.

The hearings of the trial took place between May and October last year.

Their lawyers said they plan to appeal the verdict.

Crackdown on Falun Gong continues

Members of Falun Gong, the banned spiritual movement with millions of followers in China, continued to endure severe persecution in 2023.

A total of 1,188 followers were sentenced to jail terms and 209 were persecuted to death last year, Bitter Winter reported summarizing internal reports of the movement.

The death tally includes 88 cases in the previous year which became known to the group in 2023. Among the victims 170 were aged between 23 and 93, the report said.

The victims died due to various forms of torture such as wearing a straitjacket, being shocked with an electric baton, sprinkled with chili peppers, having their feet burned, being force-fed with mustard oil, or being deprived of food and sleep. Several women were sexually assaulted, it stated.

Falun Gong or Falun Dafa was founded in the 1990s by Li Hongzhi as a neo-religious movement. Its headquarters is in Dragon Springs, New York. Falun Gong followers reportedly revere Li as a God-like figure or deity.

Known for its ultra-conservative views such as opposition to evolution theory, same-sex, feminism, and modern medicine, the movement reportedly has millions of followers in China and across the globe. The movement prioritizes various exercises for spiritual atonement.

The group drew the ire of the Chinese Communists for its opposition to the party and its rule. In 1999, the Chinese government banned Falun Gong terming it an “illegal organization.”

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