Chinese church pastor sentenced to four years in prison

(Photo: Unsplash/zhang kaiyv)

Christian Solidarity Worldwide is calling for the release of a church elder in China's Sichuan Province who has been sentenced to four years in prison. 

It was reported by ChinaAid that Early Rain Church elder Qin Defu was charged with "illegal business operations" in Chengdu, the southwest province's capital city. The charges related to 20,000 Christian books used by the Early Rain Church.

His sentence was handed down on 29 November, four days after he stood trial at the People's Court of Qingyang District, Chengdu.

His family says that the court ruling contradicts a promise made by the authorities that he would be released if he accepted a state-appointed attorney. 

Elder Qin was detained in December 2018 along with the pastor of the church, Wang Yi, and over a hundred other members of the congregation. 

Pastor Wang's wife, Jiang Rong, has since been released, but he is due to go on trial soon.  Elder Qin's lawyer fears that the pastor's sentence may be at least 10 years. 

His detention has been criticised by the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, which in August said it was arbitrary.

CSW's Chief Executive Mervyn Thomas called for the unconditional release of Pastor Wang, as well as Elder Qin and other members of the Early Rain Church still in detention.

"CSW condemns the sentencing of Elder Qin Defu in the strongest terms," he said. 

"The charge of illegal business operations is completely unfounded and represents the latest in the authorities' long campaign of targeting Early Rain Church.

"We call for the immediate and unconditional release of Elder Qin Defu, Pastor Wang Yi and all other members of Early Rain Church, and for the charges against them to be dropped."