02/18/2022 Washington, DC— A pastor, who was once part of the state-sanctioned Three-Self Church in China’s Henan province, has refused to accept demands placed on his church as Beijing steps up a crackdown on Christianity. For this, he was sentenced to five years and a heavy fine of 210,000 RMB (32,487 USD) with several trumped up charges.
Pastor Li Juncai of Zhongxin Church in Xinxiang County, Henan Province, was first arrested by local authorities on February 20, 2019, along with three other Christians from his church: Wu Raoyun, Bai Yun and Ma Yanfang, after being charged with disrupting public service.
Pastor Li’s church was once part of the Three-Self Church, although it withdrew its affiliation in 2013. When the government began removing crosses across the province, Pastor Li refused several times to allow the authorities to destroy the cross of his church. He also objected to the proposal to install a flag-raising platform while replacing the “Love God Love People” sign with “Love [Your] love of country [Your] Religion” in his church.
A day after their arrest, his church’s cross was removed, the “Love God Love People” sign was defaced, and the national flag flew high in his church. Pastor Li and his colleagues have been charged with “disrupting public service,” but only he remains incarcerated. Two other charges of embezzlement and destruction of accounting records were later added to Li’s case.
Someone familiar with the case said the evidence in all three cases is lacking, but authorities want to slap him with these charges. His son believes Pastor Li has been targeted by the government in retaliation for speaking out against the forcible demolition of the cross and the suppression of house churches as Beijing tightens its control over religion.
While in detention, Pastor Li has successfully spread the gospel in the cell – so far three people have accepted Christ, including a Muslim.
Pastor Juncai Li’s church has about 70 chapels across the county. His church split from the local Tri-Self Patriotic Church in 2013 and became an independent church. Pastor Li graduated from Henan Theological Seminary and was ordained in Hong Kong. His family members also serve in the same church.
Henan Province is estimated to have a Christian population of several million. According to The Amity Foundation, Henan is home to almost a quarter of the country’s Christian population. Some foreign commentators call it the “Galilee of China”. Beginning in 2018, authorities in the province began cracking down on churches, hoping to drastically reduce the number of churches and Christians.
“All the charges against Li are fabricated charges; all charges are revenge and repression [against him]”, noted Pastor Li Juncai’s family.
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This story is part of the ICC series Chained to the podium, a series where we remember those who have suffered or are currently suffering persecution by the Chinese Communist Party because of their faith. This series will be posted daily for the duration of the Beijing Olympics in 2022. Click here to learn more about the project.
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