By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent Worthy News
(Worthy News) - A devoted Chinese pastor of a banned evangelical church hospitalized after being assaulted by police in southwest China, Christians familiar with the situation told Worthy News Monday.
Pastor Yang Hua of Living Stone Church was attacked and beaten Sunday by a government official in a police station in Guiyang, the capital of Guizhou Province, Christians explained.
The attacker was reportedly wearing plainclothes but claimed he represented the district-level Committee of Political and Legal Affairs.
Pastor Yang Hua had been planning to visit Christian friends in Qingdao on Monday, according to fellow believers following the case. It is believed that the official was trying to stop him from meeting the other believers. The May 23 beatings allegedly occurred in front of three other local officials.
Chinese authorities did not comment, but they have in the last denied wrongdoing or defended their policies.
Yang was taken to hospital following the attack with scratches to his ear and neck, and symptoms of tinnitus, according to human rights investigators.
The attack also triggered a suspected flare-up of pancreatitis, a pre-existing condition, according to people familiar with the situation. Yang was to undergo further medical checks in the coming days.
Advocacy group Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) said the bearings came after Yang Hua was released in June 2019 following a two-and-a-half-year sentence for “divulging state secrets.” It was part of a broader crackdown on Living Stone Church’s leaders and members, Worthy News established.
The church’s other pastor, Su Tianfu, was reportedly sentenced in May 2018 to one year’s imprisonment, suspended for two years, and a further six months’ house arrest.
CSW expressed concern about the latest reported mistreatment as Pastor Yang was already “in urgent need of medical care for several health problems.”
CSW’s Founder, President Mervyn Thomas, told Worthy News in a statement that his group “is alarmed by news that Pastor Yang Hua has been the victim of a brutal attack by a government official, reportedly in front of several others.”
He said his group is “especially concerned that this may exacerbate his already serious underlying health conditions, as has been the case in the past.” CSW, he added, has urged “the police to conduct an immediate and impartial investigation into the attack, holding those responsible to account.”
Thomas also said that “authorities in Guizhou” should “cease all harassment of Pastor Yang, other members of Living Stone Church, and Christians and members of other religious groups across the province.”
Living Stone Church started in 2009 with just 20 members meeting in a tiny apartment in Guiyang city. Four years later, the church had 400 members, buying space in a shopping center, Christians said. The church activities were apparently noticed by China’s Communist authorities, who began targeting the congregation.
At Christmas 2014, government officials shut off the church’s power and water supply during a Christmas service, Christians said.
“The church’s baptism ceremonies were attended by unexpected guests: several hundred police and security agents, monitoring the whole thing,” confirmed CSW.
“When Living Stone decided to buy a bigger meeting space, government officials posted a notice urging the public not to take part in the church’s ‘illegal religious activities. “
Almost all church members have been pressurized to leave the church, Christians told Worthy News. Church members had “phone calls from officials, or were called in for meetings, or even visited at home by officials trying to force them to leave the church,” CSW said.
China is increasingly targeting churches and house churches operating outside the state-backed denominations.
Chinese Communist officials have expressed concern about the spread of Christianity.
The Chinese Communist Party reportedly views the Christian faith as a threat to its atheistic power base in this nation of 1.4 billion people.
In 2019 then U.S. Vice President Mike Pence noted that "faith in Jesus Christ has reached as many as 130 million Chinese Christians," eclipsing the roughly 90 million Communist Party members.
Chinese Christians also far outnumber the country's estimated 23 million Muslims, according to several estimates.