Chengdu, China, Mar 25, 2019 / 17:01 pm
Wang Yi and more than 100 members of his congregation were detained in China's Sichuan province in early December. Some were released the next day, but then put under house arrest. Wang, his wife, and nearly 10 others remain in detention, charged with inciting subversion.
Wang is pastor of Early Rain Covenant Church in Chengdu, which has now been closed. Some members of the ecclesial community are in hiding, some have been effectively exiled from the Sichuanese capital, and others are under surveillance. In all, more than 300 members of the community have been arrested, according to the church.
The building rented by Early Rain Covenant Church has new tenants, and police turn away those looking for the church.
The community posted on its Facebook page March 20 that one of its members was last seen two days earlier at a train station “being escorted by multiple plainclothes police officers. His head was shaved and he was handcuffed. We do not know where he was being taken.” The statement added that several members “have been forcefully evicted from their homes.”
Wang has been an outspoken opponent of the Chinese government's effort to 'Sinicize' religion.
Religious freedom is officially guaranteed by the Chinese constitution, but religious groups must register with the government, and are overseen by the Chinese Communist Party. The Sinizication of religion has been pushed by President Xi Jinping, who took power in 2013 and who has strengthened government oversight of religious activities.
Earlier this year Early Rain Covenant Church posted a May 2017 sermon by Wang, called “When to Resist, When to Submit”.
He gave the example of the police coming to the church and offering two options: that the pastor attend religious instruction at the Religious Affairs Bureau once a month and that the list of candidates for elders and pastors be reported, or the church's property will be confiscated and the leaders arrested.
Wang held in his sermon that “in matters involving the body, God wants us to wholly submit, to give up these things, to bear the losses. But the Lord has not given them [i.e., governments] the keys of the kingdom of heaven.”