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China: Pastor jailed for five years

Sat 18 Feb 2017
By Antony Bushfield

A pastor in China has been jailed for five years after judges ruled she was guilty of "illegal business operations".

Zhang Xiuhong (centre), the former deacon of Living Stone Church, had been held without trial for a year and a half.

Activists in the country say the charge against her is false and she was locked up for leading an unregistered church.

She was pulled from her car in July 2015 by a man who stole the vehicle. Later her house was raided by police who removed her computers, USB drives and hard drives.

Xiuhong and her husband were arrested but he was later released.

Christian Solidarity Worldwide says Xiuhong was told charges related to her business dealings but officers only asked her about the church.

Living Stone Church, an unregistered Protestant church with over 700 members, is under constant threat from the communist government.

Christian Solidarity Worldwide's Chief Executive Mervyn Thomas said: "This sentence is the latest act of arbitrary harassment against members of Living Stone Church.

"Targeting and confiscating the funds of the church accountant appears to be a tactic designed to cripple an entire congregation which has been targeted by the authorities because it refuses to register under the state-sanctioned Three Self Patriotic Movement.

"Some members have also provided advice and support to other churches facing pressure from the authorities. We call on the Chinese authorities to release Zhang Xiuhong and Pastor Yang Hua, and to respect all Chinese citizens' right to freedom of religion or belief."

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