On January 5, 2017, Pastor Yang Hua of Living Stone Church in Guizhou was sentenced to two-and-a-half years in prison. The day of his trial, police blocked the road in front of the court, and members of the public were barred from entering. Also, Yang's wife, Wang Hongwu, was "forcibly escorted" back to her apartment by officials who patrolled outside her home for the rest of the day.
Pastor Yang, also known as Li Guozhi, was formally arrested more than a year ago on suspicion of "divulging state secrets." (Charges relating to "state secrets," often levelled at activists and dissidents, can entail certain restrictions, such as family members not being allowed to attend the trial.) Wang says her husband plans to appeal the recent sentence.
The imprisoned pastor had previously been placed in administrative detention in December 2015 for "obstructing justice" and "gathering a crowd to disturb social order" before being put into criminal detention for "illegally holding state secrets." Church members perceive this as part of an attempt by the authorities to pressure the church into registering with the state or face closure. Currently, the circumstances in which legal stipulations are carried out eradicate all churches not controlled by the government, as was the case for the Living Stone Church.
Additionally, authorities imposed a fine that accrued to 110,296 Yuan ($20,956 CAD) between November 22nd and December 8th, 2016. They alleged that the church's members deviated from the approved use of their building, even though the Christians consistently reported all activities. For past reports on Pastor Yang's situation, visit this page.
Please uphold Pastor Yang and his family, praying that they will not be discouraged. Rather, may they rest in God's great love and mercy, knowing that His higher purposes will be fulfilled. Ask the Lord to also be with the church members as they move forward, seeking direction regarding a place to worship and how they can support one another. May they receive divine wisdom, direction and the empowerment to faithfully continue serving Him. Pray that the flames of God's Spirit will move all across China -- transforming the hearts of many!