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ICC NOTE: Last week Pastor Gu “Joseph” Yuese of the largest church in Zhejiang province was arrested by Chinese authorities over his vocal opposition towards the Communist Party’s mission to demolish crosses and churches. Authorities charged pastor Gu with embezzling 10 million Yuan (USD 1.6 million) in funds. He currently reside in an undisclosed location under 24 hour surveillance commonly known as a ‘black jail’. This is the highest profiled arrest of a church leader in China since the cultural revolution. 

2/2/2016 Zhejiang, China (China Aid) – Authorities in China’s coastal Zhejiang province charged the chairman of the provincial China Christian Council (CCC) with embezzlement and re-assigned all of the ministerial leadership under him to different churches following his dismissal from his position of senior pastor China’s largest government-approved church, China Aid learned on Saturday.

Authorities charged Pastor Gu “Joseph” Yuese, who was the senior pastor of Chongyi Church, with “embezzling 10 million Yuan (U.S. $1.6 million) in funds.” Church members reported that his arrest was unexpected, and a coalition of 1,342 church leaders in Hong Kong signed a petition for his release.

On Thursday, China Aid learned that police took Gu into their custody and placed him under “residential surveillance in a designated location,” commonly known as a “black jail.” Authorities also detained Gu’s wife, Pastor Zhou Lianmei, for a day and warned her not to leave the country.

Gu was removed from his position on Jan. 18 after speaking out against the cross demolition campaign sweeping across Zhejiang. In a notice addressed to “municipal churches,” the Three-Self Patriotic Movement (TSPM) and the CCC announced that Zhang Zhongcheng, current vice-president and temporary secretary general of the TSPM, would replace him.

Shortly after this notice was issued, Gu and Zhou released a message to their church congregation indicating their intent to continue serving at Chongyi Church in a different capacity. With the overturn in church leadership, however, authorities ordered all of the ministerial staff, including Zhou, to relocate to different churches.

“A provincial level CCC chairman was so simplistically removed by force from his position of senior pastor,” said Dr. Chen Yilu, the president of China’s largest seminary, Nanjing Union Theological Seminary. “What kind of church system does our Chinese church have? Does the Chinese church really have ‘self,’ and what is the destiny of the ‘[TSPM and CCC]?” [Editor’s note: “Self” refers to the three characteristics of TSPM churches: self-governance, self-support and self-propagation.]

A translation of the petition from Hong Kong church leaders is forthcoming.

China Aid exposes religious freedom abuses, such as those experienced by Gu Yuese, the members of Chongyi Church, in order to promote religious freedom and rule of law in China.

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