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Megachurch pastor released after serving 7-year sentence

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Escorted by government officials, Yang Rongli leaves
Shanxi Women's prison. (Photo: China Aid)
China Aid
By Brynne Lawrence

Updated on Nov. 14, 2016, at 12:59 p.m. 

(Linfen, Shanxi—Oct. 19, 2016) After seven years in official custody, the pastor of a megachurch in China’s northern Shanxi province was released on Oct. 10.

On the morning of Sept. 13, 2009, the local government dispatched more than 500 police officers and casually dressed personnel, who broke into churches and a Christian shoe factory. They beat approximately 100 Christians, and many were injured or fell unconscious. 10 days later, authorities dispatched bulldozers and excavators to destroy multiple buildings, while government employees smashed televisions, refrigerators, cars, kitchenware, and other church property.

Afterward, Pastor Yang Rongli and her husband, Wang Xiaoguang, were arrested while traveling to Taiyuan, the provincial capital, to protest the demolition of a house church in Linfen, their hometown.

Yang Rongli poses next to a sign for Shanxi Women's Prison,
where she was incarcerated. (Photo: China Aid)
On Nov. 25, 2009, they were convicted of “gathering a mob to disturb public order” for holding a prayer rally on Sept. 14. Authorities sentenced Yang and Wang to seven and three years in prison, respectively, and fined the couple a total of 40,000 Yuan (U.S. $5,860). Five days later, they were ordered to serve in a labor camp for two years.

Yang was forced to serve the entirety of her sentence, despite her insistence that the charge was falsified.

Upon release, Yang showed physical signs of the brutality she endured while incarcerated. Her hair grayed due to malnutrition and a lack of sunlight, and at the time of the report she suffered from two kidney stones, diabetes, and a heart problem.

Despite her ailments, she was reported to be in good spirits regarding her freedom, and has no complaints or resentment.

Shortly after her release, Yang accepted an interview in which she detailed events before her arrest, saying officials had attempted to pay her 10 million Yuan [$1,460,515.00 USD] to destroy the church. "I told them not to discuss with me. The [10 million Yuan] is my [Christian] brothers and sisters’ money, not my money. I said, ‘If you want to buy [the church] today, consult with the brothers and sisters. If the brothers and sisters agree to sell it, you can just give the money to them. If they do not agree, you simply must not discuss this with me. I do not have this right. You said that consulting with me arose out of your concern for me, so you gave me 10 million Yuan, but that is an international joke. How can I have the authority to sell Jindeng Church?”

She also said she invited officials to come hear her preach, and that Christians visit her everyday, even though they are not permitted to come.

China Aid reports on abuses, such as those suffered by Yang Rongli, in order to stand in solidarity with persecuted Christians and promote religious freedom in China.

ChinaAid Media Team
Cell: (432) 553-1080 | Office: 1+ (888) 889-7757 | Other: (432) 689-6985
Email: media@chinaaid.org
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"Bob Fu has dedicated his life to bringing freedom of religion to the Chinese people. His story is a testimony to the power of faith and an inspiration to people struggling to break free from oppression."
—Mrs. Laura Bush

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