Chinese Church Leader Sentenced to Four Years in Prison
Sentence Defies Previous Legal Promises by the Police
12/03/2019 Washington D.C. (International Christian Concern) – International Christian Concern (ICC) has learned that Qin Derfu, an elder from Sichuan’s Early Rain Covenant Church (ERCC) who has been detained since last December, was sentenced to four years in prison for “illegal business” on November 29. The sentencing took place four days after his trial at the Qingyang People’s Court.
The police promised Qin’s family that if they allowed the government to employ two assigned lawyers to replace Qin’s own assigned lawyer, Qin “would only need to appear at the court before he can be released.” However, the judge then slapped him with the four-year sentence for illegally printing and publishing publications without authorization from the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television.
According to Radio Free Asia, Qin’s wife received two passes to attend the trial. Qin’s own assigned lawyer was, however, unable to sit in, and Qin was left to be defended by the two state assigned lawyers. The court asked Qin to plead guilty to the aforementioned accusations, to which he refused.
The judge stated that “Qin’s criminal act was especially grave,” for he printed tens of thousands of Gospel pamphlets. An ERCC member told RFA that during the trial, the prosecutor never mentioned Qin’s church, or that he is a Christian and an elder, in a clear attempt to mark this case as non-religious and purely about running an illegal business.
After Qin was sentenced, he asked the police to tell his wife, Xiao Hongliu, that he cannot plead guilty simply to meet the police’s needs, because his consciousness does not allow him to do so. In his last statement, he said, “I am a Christian, and I serve at my church, according to my congregation’s needs. With the understanding of an ordinary citizen, I have done nothing illegal or contrary to law, I believe having [Christian] faith is not a crime.”
Zhang Peihong, the assigned lawyer of imprisoned pastor Wang Yi, commented on Facebook, “According to Pastor Wang Yi’s testimony, he actively took the main responsibilities for printing these evangelism materials. So based on this (Qin’s sentence), I sense that Wang will receive at least 10 years of imprisonment.”
While most of the victims of last year’s 1209 ERCC crackdown have been released, Pastor Wang Yi and elder Qin Derfu are the last two who remain behind bars.
Gina Goh, ICC’s Regional Manager for Southeast Asia, said, “We strongly condemn the Chinese government for the injustice that has been applied to a devout Christian, who has done nothing illegal and was solely punished for his faith and ministry. We also ask for prayers for the Early Rain Covenant Church, as they continue to face persecution from the government, exploited of their right to freely worship in China.”