A 60-year-old pastor, his wife, and a few congregants were allegedly beaten and have been sentenced to jail time for 'spreading superstition.'
Pastor Kan Xiaoyong and his wife Wang Fengying moved from Wuhan to Dalian City in 2018 to start their ministry, the Home Discipleship Network. The online ministry platform gained a large national following and according to sources, it was this and its unofficial status that posed a threat to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).
The couple and four other church members were initially arrested by Dalian police in October 2021. Xiaoyong and Fengying shared in court that the Dalian police tortured them during interrogation and this hasn't been refuted by authorities.
Pastor Xiaoyong received a sentence of 14 years in prison while his wife was handed four years. The other church members have sentences ranging from three to 10 years.
Every church in China is encouraged to be a member of the Three Self-Patriotic Movement (TSPM), controlled by the CCP. Under the TSPM, churches are told what they are allowed and not allowed to preach. According to sources, under TSPM churches are not allowed to preach about the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
The Home Discipleship Network was a protestant church not registered with the TSPM. According to Bitter Winter, a magazine writes about religious liberty and human rights in China, putting Christians and pastors in jail is by part of a bigger picture by President Xi Jinping’s government to compel all protestant churches to join the TSPM.
In court the couple was accused of heterodox teaching, which the government in China uses when they talk about 'cults.' However, as a protestant house church, they do not fall under a 'cult' title. The CCP continues to create new regulations for churches across the country and they have been watching them through surveillance for years.
The church's defense lawyers are planning to appeal the severe verdict.