The Pastor of Early Rain Covenant Church in China’s southwestern city of Chengdu has been sentenced to nine years in jail over charges of inciting subversion of state power and illegally operating a business.
Wang, who heads one of China’s best-known unregistered “house” churches, was among dozens of the church’s members and leaders detained by police in December 2018.
According to a brief statement posted on the website of the Chengdu court, the pastor has also been deprived of his political rights for three years and 50,000 yuan ($7,160) of his personal property was confiscated as part of his sentencing.
Chinese law requires that places of worship register and submit to government oversight, but those who have refused to register are referred to as “house” or “underground” churches.
China’s constitution guarantees religious freedom but since Xi Jinping became president six years ago, the government has tightened restrictions on religions seen as a challenge to the authority of the Communist party.
President Xi Jingping’s government has cracked down on underground churches, both Protestant and Catholic, and has rolled out new legislation to increase oversight of religious education and practices, with harsher punishment for practices not sanctioned by authorities.