A South African church has found itself at the centre of a row...
A Chinese pastor and his wife have been jailed for 14 and 12 years respectively for "corruption" and "gathering people to disturb social order".
Pastor Bao Guohua and his wife Xing Wenxiang were detained on 26 July 2015 and held for more than six months before being sentenced.
In addition to their sentences, the court has ordered that assets totalling approximately £66,000 be confiscated from each of them.
The corruption charges against them related to alleged embezzling of money from their congregation.
Bao Guohua is pastor of Jinhua Christian Church in Jinhua City, Zhejiang Province and is one of several pastors from government-approved religious organisations who have spoken out against the demolition of hundreds of crosses in Zhejiang Province since early 2014.
It is reported that up to 10 other church members from Bao's church have been sentenced, as well as his son, Bao Chenxing, who is reported to have been sentenced to 3 years in prison.
Mervyn Thomas, Chief Executive of Christian Solidarity Worldwide, said: "We are deeply concerned to hear of the sentencing of Bao Guohua and Xing Wenxiang.
"The authorities have claimed that the forced removal of hundreds of crosses from churches in Zhejiang Province is aimed at illegal structures and is nothing to do with religion; yet pastors and Christians who have peacefully opposed the cross removals have been detained and in some cases given long prison sentences.
"Pastor Bao, and Pastors Li Guanzhong and Gu Yuese detained in January this year, are accused of various crimes, but all have one thing in common: they opposed the removal of crosses from Zhejiang churches.
"We call on the Chinese authorities to release immediately all those detained in connection with their peaceful opposition to restrictions on their religious freedom, and to uphold the right to freedom of religion or belief for people of all faiths in China."
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