(Guiyang, Guizhou—May 26, 2017) Authorities from a religious affairs bureau in China’s central Guizhou province fined a serially persecuted house church 7 million yuan ($1,020,200 USD) despite having previously confiscated the church’s income.
|Officers from the Nanming District Religious Affairs Bureau
serve an administrative penalty notice on May 19 in the home
of Su Tianfu. (Photo: ChinaAid)
On the evening of May 19, officials from the Nanming District Religious Affairs Bureau issued an administrative penalty to Su Tianfu, one of the pastors of Huoshi Church, claiming that he and another of Huoshi Church’s pastors, the currently imprisoned Yang Hua, owed a fine of over 7 million yuan.
“Someone knocked on my door at 7 p.m. yesterday,” Su told a ChinaAid reporter on May 20. “It was four officials from the ethnic and religious affairs bureau. I told them it was late, but they said they were working overtime. Nothing could be done about it. Then they delivered an administrative penalty notice to me.
“Last time,” Su continued, “they came on behalf of city management and planning departmentsand accused us of changing the purpose of a house (that we used as a church office.) The original fine was more than 100,000 yuan ($14,500 USD), but the government raised it to more than 200,000 yuan ($29,000 USD.) Because we didn’t have enough money to pay this fine, the government confiscated our private property, including a private residence of mine and [Huoshi Church accountant] Zhang Xiuhong’s automobile.”
According to the notice, Su and Yang committed the crime of establishing religious sites without authorization. Yang was listed on the notice under his legal name, Li Guozhi. The bureau’s investigation concluded that between April 2009 and November 2015, when Huoshi Church was closed down, the two pastors established the church without permission, organized religious activities, and received donations totaling 7,053,710.68 yuan.
“By this 7 million yuan total, the government meant the total sum of donations the church received from the very first gathering on April 10, 2009 to the last one on Dec. 9, 2015, when the church was banned,” Su explained. “The [officials] confiscated the church’s account book after arresting Zhang Xiuhong. They used that to calculate the donation money we have received.”
The donations the church received were used on operating costs and daily expenses, including helping church members in trouble. They do not have 7 million yuan to pay the fine.
Su fears that officials will attempt to confiscate the houses and property of other church members if the fine is not paid. He plans to apply for administrative review and ask the government to revoke the fine.
Losing houses is a fear shared by Wang Hongwu, Yang’s wife. “It’s certain that the government will take everything away. I have no idea how this happened. This penalty does not make sense.”
During the final raid on Huoshi Church before they were banned—which took place on Dec. 9, 2015—authorities detained Yang and other Christians. After more than a year of detention, Yang was sentenced to two-and-a-half years in prison on Jan. 6, 2017. He is still serving this sentence.
Additionally, Zhang was sentenced to five years in prison on Feb. 10, 2017 after the court found her guilty of “illegal business operations.” She, like Yang, is also still in prison.
Other Christians from Huoshi Church such as Tu Yulei and Wang Yao, were sentenced to one and two years’ probation, respectively, in October 2016.
ChinaAid reports on persecuted house churches in China, such as Huoshi Church, in order to expose government abuses and promote rule of law.
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