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Purging pastors

HANGZHOU (AsiaNews): Chinese state media confirmed that Reverend Joseph Gu Yuese, the pastor of the Chongyi Church in Hangzhou, the largest Protestant community in mainland China, was unceremoniously fired from his position on January 18 and later arrested on charges of embezzlement, but no further details were given.

In an open letter addressed to his congregation, Reverend Gu speaks of a cold storm that is heading for Hangzhou, the provincial capital of Zhejiang.

On January 27, Reverend Gu disappeared with his wife, Zhou Lianmei.

In the letter he warns, “A rare freezing cold will befall Hangzhou... Chongyi Church is also experiencing unprecedented, chilling trails.”

Two days later, Church officials announced that he was working with the police on allegations of misappropriation of community funds.

The Chongyi Church received a formal police notification that reads, the pastor is being held “under house arrest in a chosen location,” a euphemism increasingly used by the Chinese authorities to indicate illegal detention.

Under national law, a citizen who is legally detained—even while waiting to appear in court—has the right to communicate with their family, to meet with their lawyer and dispute the charges against them.

If the suspect really is cooperating with the authorities and is under house arrest, these rights have been contravened.

Beijing has reserved the same treatment for the five book sellers from Hong Kong, who have turned up in China even though the Immigration Department in Hong Kong says it has no record of them leaving the city.

The sudden dismissal of Reverend Gu, which took place without following mandatory procedures, has shocked the congregation at his Church.

Reverend Gu has opposed the government campaign to publicly demolish crosses on Church buildings over the past 18 months or so.

In May 2015, Chongyi Church posted a statement against the new regulation on religious buildings and demolition of crosses on its website.

The website was temporarily taken offline later. Then in late July, Reverend Gu signed an open letter to the Zhejiang Religion Bureau on behalf of government registered Churches.

Reverend Huang Ziyi, a pastor who resisted the demolishing of the cross on his church, had been sentenced to one year in jail for provoking social unrest.

 

It was one of the Churches  defended by the detained lawyer, Zhang Kai.

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