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02/18/2022 Washington, D.C. —  A pastor, who was once part of the state-sanctioned Three-Self Church in China’s Henan province, refused to accept the imposed demands on his church as Beijing intensified crackdown against Christianity. For this, he was sentenced to five years and a hefty fine of 210,000 RMB ($32,487 USD) with several trumped-up charges. 

Pastor Li Juncai from Zhongxin Church in Xinxiang County, Henan province, was first detained by local authorities on Feb. 20, 2019, along with three other Christians from his church: Wu Raoyun, Bai Yun, and Ma Yanfang, after being accused of disrupting public service. 

Pastor Li’s church was once part of the Three-Self church, though it withdrew its affiliation in 2013. When the government began removing crosses across the province, Pastor Li repeatedly refused to allow the officials to destroy his church’s cross. He also stood against the proposal to install a flag-raising platform while replacing the sign “Love God Love People” with “Love [Your] Country Love [Your] Religion” at his church. 

A day after their arrest, the cross at his church was removed, the “Love God Love People” sign was wiped out, and the national flag was flying high at his church. Pastor Li and his coworkers were charged with “disrupting public service,” yet only he remains incarcerated. Two more charges of embezzlement and destruction of accounting records were later added to Li’s case. 

Someone who is familiar with the case stated that the evidence for these three cases is lacking, yet the authorities want to slap him with these accusations. His son believes Pastor Li was targeted by the government in retaliation for him taking a stance against the forced demolition of the cross and the suppression of house churches as Beijing tightens its control over religion.  

During his detention, Pastor Li successfully spread the gospel within the cell — so far, three people have accepted Christ, including a Muslim. 

Pastor Juncai Li’s church has approximately 70 chapels across the county. His church broke away from the local Three-Self Patriotic Church in 2013 and became an independent church. Pastor Li graduated from Henan Theological Seminary and was ordained in Hong Kong. His family members also serve at the same church.  

Henan province is estimated to have a Christian population of several million. According to The Amity Foundation, Henan takes up nearly one-fourth of the Christian population in the country. Some overseas commentators call it the “Galilee of China.” Beginning in 2018, the authorities in the province began to clamp down on churches, hoping to significantly reduce the number of churches and Christians. 

“All the accusations against Li are fabricated charges; all the charges are revenge and crackdown [against him],” said Pastor Li Juncai’s family. 

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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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Since 1995, ICC has served the global persecuted church through a three-pronged approach of advocacy, awareness, and assistance. ICC exists to bandage the wounds of persecuted Christians and to build the church in the toughest parts of the world.