A megachurch pastor who has spent several months imprisoned for his faith is facing deepening legal troubles after a new set of charges against him were announced by the Chinese authorities.
In addition to “inciting subversion” and attempting to turn people against the Chinese government, Pastor Wang Yi has now been charged with “illegal business activity.”
Those close to the case believe that the charges have arisen because the government does not have enough evidence to charge the minister with “subversion.”
“They want to charge Pastor Wang Yi with inciting subversion, but even they know that this isn’t a very persuasive accusation,” one local person told Radio Free Asia. “So they are hoping for a breakthrough using economic [crimes].”
Pastor Yi has been in prison since police swooped on his church last December, accusing him of refusing to comply with government regulations on church gatherings. Many of his congregants have claimed that authorities tortured them in an attempt to turn them against their leader and illicit damning confessions regarding his ministry.
“I think the situation in China just needs to be bathed in a lot of prayer,” John Pudaite, President and CEO of Bibles For The World, told Mission Network News. “We do see a tightening of things. A lot of the ministries we’ve been to talking with are working with the registered Church, and so they don’t face as much of the oppression or difficulties [and] persecution that we’re seeing that is coming down on the unregistered Church.”
The Chinese government demands that churches be state-mandated and registered to the Religious Affairs Bureau, which effectively keeps them aligned with communist ideals. Many churches, like Early Covenant Rain, refuse to do this and suffer as a result.
“The underground Church has been given basically two years to get registered, ‘or else.’ They’ve been given no other options,” Pudaite added. “So the clock is ticking on that. At the same time, there are pressures on the registered Church to try to minimize influence from the West.”
President Jinping must repent — Pastor Yi
Indeed, even amid threats that his church was going to be torn apart by a relentless onslaught of government agents, Wang Yi openly called on the Chinese President to repent of his sins.
In a sermon dated September 9, 2018, he declared that if “President Xi Jinping does not repent he will perish!”
“When we are not being persecuted, we spread the gospel. And when persecution comes, we continue spreading the gospel,” pastor Yi preached in his stirring message. “If we are talking about a President, we declare he is a sinner. And if we are talking about a general secretary, we still declare that he is a sinner. We believe that we have the responsibility to tell Xi Jinping that he is a sinner!”
Yi continued: “The government he is leading has sinned greatly against God, for it is persecution the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ, and if he does not repent, he will perish!”