Church in Chains, 23rd August 2023
Elder Zhang Chunlei, leader of the banned Ren’ai (Love) Reformed Church in Guiyang, capital of China’s southwestern Guizhou province, was sent to Sanjiang hospital in early August after suffering a bout of cholecystitis (gall bladder inflammation) in prison. Elder Zhang has been in detention since March 2021.
China Aid reported, “For a long time, Zhang has been healthy and optimistic, but this sudden bout of cholecystitis triggered his family’s concern about his life in prison.”
Elder Zhang was detained on 16 March 2021 following a raid on his church and was officially arrested on suspicion of “fraud” on 1 May 2021. In November 2021 his wife Yang Aiqing said in a social media post that the Public Security Bureau in Guiyang has accused her husband of “not having the status of a state-approved religious clergyman while holding religious gatherings and swindling believers of about 100,000 RMB [approximately €12,600]”.
Chinese house-church leaders are increasingly being prosecuted on false charges of “fraud”, which can carry a sentence of more than ten years. On 21 August 2023 China Aid’s Special Correspondent Gao Zhensai commented, “In recent years, the Chinese Communist Party authorities have used church tithes and offerings as a reason to impose fraud charges to bring down Christian churches, arresting and sentencing many church pastors and co-workers… Fraud is now the norm in the persecution of Christian house churches in mainland China.”