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Court tries house church pastor in secret amidst rampant corruption

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China Aid

Pastor Su Tianfu (left) and Pastor Yang Hua (ChinaChange).
Pastor Yang Hua (r) and Pastor Su Tianfu (left) (ChinaChange).

Guiyang, Guizhou — A secretive trial was held for a prominent pastor in China’s central Guizhou province on Monday. His lawyers said the court refused to grant the requests they and their client made during two pre-trial sessions, likely skewing the trial in favor of the prosecution.

The trial, which commenced at 9:30 a.m. on Dec. 26, reviewed the case of Yang Hua, a pastor from Huoshi Church held on a falsified “divulging state secrets” charge. While incarcerated, the prosecutors visited Yang, tortured him, and threatened his family in order to extort a confession. As a result, Yang requested that the prosecutors be barred from trying the case. Yang’s lawyers, Chen Jiangang and Zhao Yonglin, sued these prosecutors in response to this mistreatment. Despite these actions, the court permitted the prosecutors to remain on the case and received forged evidence from them that incriminated Yang, who entered the courtroom with two bailiffs holding his arms.

In 2015, two Huoshi Church attendees leaked a confidential document that revealed the existence of a state-run headquarters dedicated to dealing with their church. The institution, named the “Guiyang Municipal Command and Control Center for Dealing with Huoshi Church,” reserves the right to control other government departments throughout Guiyang, prompting the lawyers to request that the trial be moved to a court outside of the center’s jurisdiction. Officials ignored this request, jeopardizing the impartiality of the trial.

Because the case dealt with so-called “state secrets,” police blocked the road in front of the court and did not permit anyone from the public to enter. Yang’s wife, Wang Hongwu, arrived at the hearing at 7:00 a.m. but was forcibly escorted home two hours later. Throughout the day, police patrolled outside of her apartment complex.

On Friday, officials forced Su Tianfu, another of Huoshi Church’s pastors, to take a trip. Currently, China Aid does not know his whereabouts, intended destination, the purpose of the trip, or how long he will be gone.

Yang was originally taken into police custody on Dec. 9, 2015, when he tried to prevent officials from confiscating a church hard drive during a raid. The next day, he received two consecutive, five-day administrative detention sentences for “the crime of obstructing justice” and “gathering a crowd to disturb public order.” When Wang came to pick him up on Dec. 20, 2015, she saw him being forced to wear a black hood and herded into an unlicensed vehicle. Upon inquiry, she learned that he had been charged with “illegally possessing state secrets” and was being transferred to criminal detention in another facility. On Jan. 22, he was formally arrested for “divulging state secrets.”

The judge has yet to sentence Yang.

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