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Chinese authorities have formally arrested a pastor who ministered to hundreds of people each week.
According to anti-persecution charity, Christian Solidarity Worldwide, officials arrested Pastor Yang Hua (above, left) on suspicion of "divulging state secrets".
It came after authorities in Nanming, in the southern Guizhou province, sent Yang Hua's Living Stone Church a formal notice last November, saying it was illegally using a commercial building.
This effectively issued Living Stone Church, which has around 700 members, the ultimatum to either disband, join the state-controlled church, or pay fines.
Living Stone Church's appeal against the notice was rejected, and Mr Hua and at least six others were subsequently detained.
The pastor was then formally charged on January 22nd after months in detention.
Meanwhile in the eastern city of Hangzhou, the leader of one of China's biggest state-controlled churches has been removed from his post after publicly denouncing the government's removal of church crosses.
Gu Yuese led Chongyi Church, which had more than thousands of people come through its doors every week.
Since 2014, authorities have removed at least hundreds of church crosses across China on what they call safety grounds, while demolishing other church buildings completely.
At least dozens of Christian and other human rights lawyers have been detained as part of increasing crackdowns on the unsanctioned practice of Christianity in the country.
CSW's Chief Executive Mervyn Thomas said: "We call on the authorities to drop the charges against Pastor Yang and to cease its harassment of Living Stone Church members.
"We urge the Chinese authorities to act in accordance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), by respecting the inherent dignity of all those detained in the crackdown and the right of Chinese citizens, like the members of Living Stone Church, to the right to freedom of religion or belief."
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