Chinese house church pastor sues local government for religious freedom violations

A house church pastor who was imprisoned has sued local government departments in Guizhou province in China, saying he had been wrongly fined and that his religious freedom had been violated.

(REUTERS / Stringer)Tourists visit the Qingyan Ancient Town in Guiyang, Guizhou province in this October 3, 2014 file photo.

Huoshi Church pastor Li Guozhi (also known as Yang Hua) was detained by police and sentenced to two-and-a-half years in prison for allegedly leaking state secrets after he defended a hard drive. On Oct. 10, he sued the Nanming District Religious Affairs Bureau and the Guiyang Municipal Ethnic and Religious Committee since he claimed they had violated his religious freedom, China Aid has learned.

Aside from that, the government imposed a fine on Yang and another pastor named Su Tianfu of 7 million yuan, saying the church officials had received this amount as an "illegal income." The two pastors, on the other hand, explained that the money was voluntarily given by church members to the church and not to them.

Pastor Yang said they did not violate any laws on religious freedom. They had already applied for a court hearing to counter the case against them, but their request was not approved.

In a separate situation in Hubei, authorities detained two Christian women and a three-year-old boy for participating in evangelization activities of the Zion Church in public parks. Family members learned that Pastor Xu Shizhen and her daughter Xu Yuqing were separated from the latter's son, Xu Shouwang, while kept under police detention, China Aid reported.

On Aug. 23, Pastor Xu Shizhen received an order from the religious affairs bureau to stop their missionary work. Their church was also accused of disobeying the Regulations on Religious Affairs.

Pastor Xu previously led a house church called Hongqiao Church. In April 2012, it was acquired by the state-sanctioned Three-Self Church after officials forcibly took control over it. She left the church and established a new house of worship, but authorities continued to harass them.