Yang Hua, one of the pastors of Huoshi Church in Guiyang, the capital of China’s southwestern Guizhou province, has been held in police custody since December 9, 2015, after he resisted the authorities’ attempts to confiscate church property. Officials accused him of the “crime of obstruction of justice” and “gathering a crowd to disturb social order,” and sentenced him to five days in administrative detention for each charge. On December 20, the day he was scheduled to be released, his wife received an official notice stating that he had been transferred to criminal detention on suspicion of “illegally holding state secrets.”
After a month of detention, during which he was unable to meet with his lawyers, Yang Hua was arrested for “divulging state secrets” on January 22, a crime that the Chinese government often imposes on pastors who publicly oppose government attempts to restrict religious practice.
Oct. 21, 2015: The Huoshi Church received an administrative penalty notice stating that three rooms in a building registered and approved for business operations were instead being used for illegal gatherings. The document gave the Huoshi Church until Nov. 21 to return the rooms to their approved usage, or the church would be fined 20 Yuan (U.S. $3) per square meter—a total of 12,960 Yuan (U.S. $2,030)—daily.
Nov. 18, 2015: The Huoshi Church received two more documents, one stating that they must demolish the church’s facility and stop all religious activities by Nov. 21. The other document contained information about the rooms that authorities stated were used improperly.
Nov. 29, 2015: Officials raided Huoshi Church’s weekly service, took video footage and warned church leadership that they would be forced to pay the fine, which had accumulated to 100,000 Yuan (U.S. $15,650), if they failed to stop religious activities.
Dec. 6, 2015: An official leaked a confidential document regarding the government’s plans to “deal with” Huoshi Church, and government personnel invaded Huoshi Church, taking photographs and videos of the premises.
Dec. 9, 2015: Yang Hua, another pastor of Huoshi Church, was administratively detained after he attempted to prevent authorities from the Nanming District Civil Affairs Bureau, the Nanming District Public Security Bureau and the Nanming District Religious Affairs Bureau from taking a hard drive during a raid on Huoshi Church.
Dec. 10, 2015: Yang’s relatives received a notice from the public security bureau stating that he was suspected of the “crime of obstruction of justice” and sentenced to five days in administrative detention.
Dec. 15, 2015: Yang’s family members received another notice from the public security bureau, which changed Yang’s charge to “gathering a crowd to disturb social order” and sentenced him to five more days in administrative detention.
Dec. 20, 2015: Wang Hongwu, Yang’s wife, witnessed her husband being put in a black hood and forced into an unlicensed vehicle when she arrived at the detention center to collect him. Later the same day, she received a notice stating that his charge had been changed to “illegally holding state secrets,” and that he placed under criminal detention at the Nanming District Detention Center.
Dec. 21, 2015: Authorities refused to allow lawyer Chen Jiangang, who had been hired to defend Yang, to meet with Yang.
Jan. 21, 2016: Chen attempted to visit Yang again but was denied, and Wang reported that officials have been thwarting her attempts to contact Yang.
Jan. 22, 2016: Authorities notified Yang’s family that they had formally arrested him for “divulging state secrets.”
Jan. 28, 2016: Wang was permitted to see Yang and wrote a letter in which she stated that he was not in good health.
March 8, 2016: Lawyers Chen Jiangang and Zhao Yonglin applied to meet with Yang, but officials rejected their request, stating they had not completed the necessary paperwork.
March 23, 2016: Chen and Zhao received permission from the Procuratorate to meet with their client. Zhao reported that authorities have been pressuring Yang to confess to his crimes by threatening to use state-run media to portray him as a “greedy pastor.”
About Huoshi Church
About Huoshi Church
Huoshi Church is the largest house church in Guiyang, the capital of China’s southwestern Guizhou province. Founded by Yang Hua and several church leaders, the size of its congregation soon swelled past the capacity of the buildings in which it held its services, prompting church leadership to look for an additional location.
After the church purchased a larger venue in 2014, authorities began to pressure them not to hold an opening ceremony, threatening a variety of legal repercussions, including a ban on the event and the subsequent arrest of all attendees. Additionally, they released a notice contending that Huoshi Church is a non-religious group, denying the ordination of its pastors and outlawing all of its religious activities. Despite these threats, Huoshi Church held the opening ceremony.
On Oct. 21, 2015, the church received an administrative penalty notice accusing them of changing the use of their locations from their officially-approved use, business operations, to a site for religious activities. The notice stated that a fine would go into effect on November 22 and accumulate 12,960 Yuan (U.S. $2,030) per day if the church refused to revert the premises to their approved usage.
Su Tianfu, a pastor at the church, applied for an administrative appeal, but the court reject his application on January 11.
When the church refused to comply with official demands, the local government dispatched officers to disturb its services on multiple occasions. These officials often refused to show identification, filmed sections of the church, confiscated church property and detained some of the Christians gathered there.
On December 9, Yang Hua attempted to deter officials from destroying a hard drive belonging to the church. He was taken into police custody and served two consecutive five-day administrative detention sentences for “the crime of obstruction of justice” and “gathering a crowd to disturb social order,” respectively. On December 20, he was accused of “illegally possessing state secrets” and transferred to criminal detention until he was arrested on January 22 for “divulging state secrets.”
In an interview, Su emphasized the difficulty Huoshi Church faces in conducting religious services after the government closed all three church locations. Currently, Huoshi Church members meet in small groups at the homes of fellow attendees.