Chinese church vicar tortured and threatened with death to extort espionage confession

A church vicar imprisoned in China reportedly continues to endure torture and death threats from guards who want him to confess to being a spy.

(Reuters/Lang Lang)A local resident rides a bicycle past a church in Xiaoshan, a commercial suburb of Hangzhou, the capital of China's east Zhejiang province, December 21, 2006.

According to Yang Hua's lawyers, their client has already developed liver disease while in prison. The church vicar was arrested in China in December 2015 after he tried to stop authorities from seizing a hard drive belonging to the Huoshi Church, the Express recalls.

Yang was later accused of "divulging state secrets" and has been repeatedly tortured and threatened to force him to confess to being a spy. Lawyers Chen Jiangang and Zhao Yonglin now fear for their client's health as he has already contracted several other serious illnesses.

"Prosecutors visited him twice, applied pressure to his feet, and repeatedly threatened to kill him and harm his family members if he failed to confess his supposed crimes," the two lawyers told China Aid after visiting the vicar in jail.

As of now, Yang's trial has been delayed and his lawyers are planning to file a lawsuit against the prosecution team for the alleged torture and death threats. Police, on the other hand, have reportedly subjected his wife Wang Hongwu under surveillance 24 hours a day.

Meanwhile, Yang's congregation has been forced to disband amid the government's ongoing crackdown on Christian churches. The Communist Party is currently keeping a tighter hold on religious activities and has released new restrictions which are to be implemented this month.

In light of the looming nationwide crackdown on Christianity in China, local churchgoers have expressed concerns over the possibility that they, too, would be arrested if they fail to pledge loyalty to the state. Nevertheless, Protestant Christians in northern Beijing told ABC they are confident that God will not forsake them during these trying times.

Pastor Wang Zeqing, who heads a Protestant church in Beijing, admitted that the new stricter religious laws will come as a very big challenge to their congregation. However, he also said real Christians will not falter in their faith due to the changes in their environment.