Christian Pastor in China Gets One-Year Prison Term in Battle Over Crosses
By Kiki Zhao | nytimes.com
The pastor, Huang Yizi, was sentenced by the People’s Court in Pingyang County after being convicted of “gathering crowds to disturb social order,” said Mr. Huang’s lawyer, Zhang Kai. Mr. Zhang said that he would appeal the court’s verdict.
Last July, Mr. Huang, a pastor of the government-sanctioned Fengwo Church in Pingyang, and several local residents asked the Pingyang County government to explain why the police beat more than 50 parishioners when they tried to stop government authorities from taking down the cross from Salvation Church, a Protestant church in Pingyang. Mr. Huang was arrested in August, and the Salvation Church’s cross was toppled several days after his arrest.
The trial on Tuesday attracted more than 400 people, mostly local Christians, who gathered outside the Pingyang court to wait for a verdict. About two hours before the trial, the area near the court was cordoned off by the police, said Zhang Zhi, a Christian who waited outside the court gate. “They first stopped cars from driving near, then they cordoned off the region two or three hundred meters away,” Mr. Zhang said.
The Zhejiang provincial government removed crosses and demolished some church buildings early last year, saying that they violated zoning policies. But an internal government policy paper made it clear that the local government wanted to crack down on the fast-growing Christian faith. Since then, several hundred church crosses have been removed in Zhejiang.