02/05/2022 Washington, D.C.— Minister An Yankui and six other members at Xuncheng Reformed Church were detained and charged with “illegal border crossing” for attending the “KL2020 Gospel and Culture” conference in Malaysia, where prominent speakers such as Pastor Tim Keller and Pastor D.A. Carson spoke.
In January 2020, Minister An, Zhang Ligong, Wang Runyun, Wang Shiqiang, Zhang Yaowen, Song Shoushan, and Zhang Chenghao all flew to Malaysia to attend the “KL2020 Gospel and Culture” Christian conference hosted by the prominent Chinese Indonesian pastor Stephen Tong. Although they departed and returned to China through customs with their passports, the Chinese government still regarded their trip as illegal.
On January 7, Fenyang city court in Shanxi province sentenced Zhang L., Wang R., Wang S., Zhang Y., and Song to six months, seven months (two of them), and eight months (two of them), respectively. Their case was first opened on December 28, 2021. Their lawyers and family members also attended the trial, although no verdict was announced at that time. Their family members said the five are doing well and remain joyful. They even shared the gospel with the judge during the trial and gave everyone in attendance an opportunity to know God.
Their preacher, An Yankui, along with church member Zhang Chenghao, were also detained after Sunday service on November 21 last year for the same charge. On November 30, Preacher An’s wife, Yao Congya, and his lawyer Fang Xiangui went to the police office in Fengyang to submit an application to meet him, only to be turned down by the authorities.
Fang later returned twice to the Xiaoyi city detention center to demand to meet with his client, but he was told that the investigation was still ongoing, and the case involved national security and state secrets, so he still was not able to see An.
Minister An had a close connection with the highly persecuted Early Rain Covenant Church and with its pastor, Wang Yi, which raised red flags in the eyes of the Chinese police. He also signed the joint statement, “A Declaration for the Sake of the Christian Faith,” to the Chinese government in 2018.
In light of these circumstances, An has been targeted by the Shanxi Department of Ethnic and Religious Affairs, the National Security Department, and the Public Security Department.
His church has also been heavily targeted in the last two years. Constant harassment and the detention of An and several members in November 2020 mark the difficulties faced by this house church with a reformed background.
Beijing has been wary of foreign influence since President Xi Jinping came into power. Religions that are regarded as foreign, such as Islam, Tibetan Buddhism, and Christianity, are treated with more scrutiny and tightened control. Under the latest legal and religious framework, exchange and communication between Chinese churches and overseas Christian communities need to be pre-approved by the government.
Minister An and his church members were detained and criminalized to deter other Christians from conducting “illegal religious activities” in the eyes of Beijing. Yet despite the persecution, Minister An chooses to stand firm in his faith and trusts God completely.
“We will not stop our gathering in the Lord but are prepared to bear all possible persecutions and costs for our Lord Jesus Christ — to go to jail or be sentenced or killed. We are willing to entrust ourselves to God.” An Yankui, after his church was raided and himself detained
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This story is part of ICC’s series Shackled to the Podium, a series where we remember those who have suffered or are currently suffering persecution by the Chinese Communist Party on account of their faith. This series will populate daily for the duration of the 2022 Beijing Olympics. Click here to read more about the project.