Pastor Wang Yi remains behind bars some two years after the authorities raided his church and detained over 100 seminary students, church members and leaders. Yi is currently serving a sentence of nine years after being convicted on charges of "inciting subversion of state power and illegal business operations." One of his church elders, Qin Defu, is serving four years behind bars.
The authorities haven't stopped their action against Chengdu's Early Rain Covenant Church, with reports that church elder Li Yingqiang was detained for questioning in October of this year. Li and his family were reportedly threatened and pressured to leave Chengdu. “As long as you are here, we will make sure you can't do anything or see anyone," they were allegedly told.
Marking the two-year anniversary of the Early Rain crackdown, Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) president Mervyn Thomas said:
“On the second anniversary of the large-scale crackdown on Early Rain Church, we reiterate our calls for the release from prison of Pastor Wang Yi and Elder Qin Defu.
"We also call for an end to the harassment and intimidation of Early Rain Church members and for this case to be raised with the Chinese government in bilateral dialogues with the UK government, alongside concerns about recent laws and policies contributing to the deterioration of freedom of religion or belief in the country.”
CSW’s 2020 report on freedom of religion or belief in China painted a bleak outlook for those seeking to follow Jesus in the communist nation. “The level of freedom of religion or belief in China is rapidly and significantly decreasing," it reads. "In the most extreme cases, religious adherents are arrested, imprisoned, tortured and even killed in connection with their religion or belief.”