Former Three-Self Pastor Hao Zhiwei | Persecution

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Former Three-Self Pastor Hao Zhiwei

Pastor Hao Zhiwei (left) with her husband who passed away a few years ago. 

02/16/2022 Washington, D.C.—A former state-vetted church pastor was arrested for “fraud” and has remained detained for the past two years, not knowing what the future holds. But on Feb. 11, 2022, she was sentenced to eight years by the Ezhou Echeng District People’s Court. 

Pastor Hao Zhiwei of Egangqiao Church has been in custody since her arrest in July 2019. She was charged five months later based on the indictment issued by the city prosecutors in December 2019. Her attorney, Si Weijiang, claimed that this might be the first case in China where a house church pastor was accused of fraud for preaching the gospel. 

Along with Pastor Hao, two other women, Hong Ying and Wan Yuanxiang, were also arrested for collecting offerings for their church—an act deemed as “fraud” by the government. According to the charges, Pastor Hao is accused of swindling 2.24 million yuan ($332,850 USD) in church offerings, which can lead to 10 years in prison. 

On Nov. 23, 2021, Si Weijiang was able to meet with Pastor Hao and gave updates of the pastor and her sons to U.S.-based China Aid. He disclosed that Moses—Pastor Hao’s youngest son attending middle school—currently suffers from severe depression. Her husband passed away a few years ago, and her oldest son started college in 2020, so he can no longer take care of his younger brother. Moses dropped out this semester and began locking himself in a room. He refuses to interact with people and only has one meal per day. 

Pastor Hao was heartbroken when she heard the news. Her health also suffers in prison. After being detained for more than two years, she has developed acute pancreatitis four times and was sent to the emergency room. She nearly lost her life. Si noticed that Hao’s weight has dropped significantly, and half of her hair has turned white. Yet, Hao has strong faith that she can be released without charge. 

After she learned of the eight-year verdict, she met with her lawyer and indicted her intention to appeal.  

Her eldest son, Paul, wrote his mother a letter after learning her sentence.  

He said, “Today, that is February 11 around noon, I learned of your news. I don’t know how to express my feelings right now. It is very complicated. I haven’t told Moses about this, since I want him to attend school without worries. Regardless of the result, I believe this is God’s will. He is molding our hearts through this.” 

Pastor Hao Zhiwei graduated from South Central Seminary in 2001 and was once offered to preach at Ezhou’s Three-Self Church. Later, she disagreed with the Religion Bureau’s governance on state-sanctioned churches, so they rejected her pastor license application in 2007. The Ezhou Three-Self Church was shut down and converted into a house church, later called Egangqiao Church. Hao Zhiwei pastored the church for 18 years. 

“Our lives are in God’s hands. He is pastoring His people, and He will pastor you, for He who has mercy on them will guide them Himself.”  

The letter from incarcerated Pastor Hao to her eldest son Paul. 

 

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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. 

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