The mother of an arrested Chinese pastor is continuing to live in her son’s church building despite the government’s threats to demolish it.
In February of this year, Pastor Li Juncai was arrested on charges of “obstructing law enforcement” and has been retained in custody every since.
International Christian Concern, a persecution watchdog based in D.C., describes the events that lead to the arrest of the faithful pastor:
“On February 1, when Pastor Li was presiding over a member’s funeral, he learned that government officials were heading to the Wangxingnan Village campus to demand the installation of a platform to fly the national flag. He immediately rushed to the village and demanded that these workers abide by law and show him relevant documents. The team said that they had no such documents, but that the national flag must be raised.
The officials then assaulted the believers who were trying to stop them. One Christian man suffered three broken ribs and two women were wounded in their faces. One of them grabbed the man who beat her to demand compensation. She was joined by Pastor Li. Seeing that the situation was quickly escalating, Pastor Li demanded that his church members give in to the forced installation. That decision allowed the officials to tear down the wall, enter the courtyard, and set up the flag base in the name of implementing patriotic education.”
A few days later, Pastor Juncai was arrested after refusing more demands made by government authorities seeking to align his church with the ideals of the Communist regime.
Immediately following Juncai’s arrest, authorities launched a campaign against Zhongxin Church, a house church in Yuanyang, by shutting off its water and electricity supply, and looting the sanctuary of religious symbols. Among the confiscated items is a cross and a banner that reads, “Love God and people,” which authorities ordered must be exchanged for one that reads “Love the country, Love the church.”
They have now promised to level the structure altogether.
“The gate of the church has been sealed since his father was taken away this February,” Pastor Li’s son, Li Chao, told China Aid. “Authorities asked us to wait for the update, saying that they will rectify the church. It has been over 9 months. A few days ago, we were informed that [the government officials] would forcibly demolish the church.”
Despite the immediacy of the threat, Pastor Li’s mother continues to live in a small room within the church building determined that, one day, her son will return. Li Chao told China Aid that he is concerned his grandmother will suffer injury or that she’ll be dragged out of the church and arrested when authorities come to destroy it.
He is also adamant that the Chinese government has absolutely no grounds on which to destroy the structure.
“Our church did the required paperwork, has the land certificate, the planning certificate and the certificate of a religious venue issued by the government,” he explained. “Now, government officials want our land and intend to forcibly demolish our church.”
Zongxin used to be a government-affiliated “Three-Self” church, but in 2013 it renounced its membership and merged with a house church. It had a membership of 700-800 people and was one of the largest congregations in the region.
“We desire to keep the church, but not sure where we will end up,” Li Chao concluded, “so what we can do is to pray to God.”