by Karen Faulkner, Worthy News Correspondent
(Worthy News) - A female Christian pastor in China has been sentenced to eight years imprisonment because she refused to join Three-Self Church, a Chinese Communist Party state-controlled body that regulates Protestant churches, UCA News reports.
The leader of a house church in Ezhou in Hubei province, Pastor Hao Zhiwei, 51, was sentenced to a prison term by the Echeng District Court on February 11, UCA reports. She was arrested in July 2019, and has been in prison pending sentencing.
According to her lawyer Si Weijiang, Hao was charged with fraud for receiving ministry funding from church members without government approval through the state-run Committee of the Three-Self Patriotic Movement of the Protestant Churches and the Christian Council, UCA reports.
Hao’s lawyer also suggested that her sentencing aligned with China’s imposition of a nationwide Sinicization policy, resulting in a crackdown on house churches, sealing up and destroying church buildings, prohibiting church members from giving offerings, and arresting pastors on charges of fraud, UCA said. According to UCA, the Chinese Government has used trumped-up accusations of “inciting subversion of state power” and “provoking trouble” to put church leaders behind bars.
The Christian advocacy group Open Doors USA ranks the persecution of Christians in China as ‘very high.’ “Christians are facing increased pressure from the Chinese authorities,” Open Doors explains in a website statement.
China ranks 17 on the US Open Doors Watch List 2022 of top 50 countries where Christians are persecuted.