03/24/2022 China (International Christian Concern) – ChinaAid reported that last Wednesday, March 16, marked one year of imprisonment for Elder Zhang Chunlei of Guiyang Ren’ai Church and four months of imprisonment for Hao Ming, formerly an elder of Qingcaodi Church.
Guiyang Ren’ai Church is a house church with which Elder Zhang has served full-time since stepping down as a government official due to his faith. In September 2018, in response to the increase in government crackdowns on house churches, Elder Zhang signed his name to the letter called “A Declaration for the Sake of the Christian Faith,” which openly condemned the Chinese government’s persecution of Christians.
Following the arrest of the letter’s author, Pastor Wang Yi of the Early Rain Covenant Church (ERCC), several other house church leaders, including Elder Zhang, raised their voices and said that they were willing to be given the same criminal charges as Pastor Wang Yi. Subsequently, Elder Zhang’s church, Guiyang Ren’ai, was raided and shut down by officials in May 2019.
In the following two years, Elder Zhang and his family were threatened and forcibly moved by government authorities for attempting to reopen the church. Authorities officially detained him in March of 2021.
Elder Hao Ming was arrested on charges of “fraud” shortly after he assisted Elder Li Yingqiang, a leader of the heavily persecuted Early Rain Covenant Church in Chengdu, in purchasing and remodeling a home back in 2020. Elder Hao was officially criminally detained on Christmas Eve, 2021.
The letter below was written by Elder Li. As ICC previously reported, ERCC has famously had many confrontations with the Chinese authorities. While addressed to imprisoned church leaders Hao Ming and Zhang Chunlei, Elder Li hopes his words will strengthen and encourage those who are suffering persecution and facing imprisonment for the sake of Christ in China.
“Today is March 16, 2022. Elder Zhang Chunlei, my friend, big brother, and beloved brother in Christ was arrested a year ago today. One year has passed.
On November 15, 2020, authorities evicted my family in Leshan, so we had to move out after staying there for two weeks. Chunlei helped us settle in Guiyang and asked us to remain multiple times. We stayed in Guiyang for four months. On March 15, 2021, we left Guiyang, and Chunlei was arrested on the second day. The initial charge was “fraud,” but the accusation of “inciting to subvert state power” was later added.
Chunlei was so thoughtful to us while we stayed in Guiyang. He visited us almost every week with other brothers and sisters to fellowship and communicate with us. He showed us around and took us to spots missionaries worked in Guizhou. He helped and comforted me in my challenging time.
Chunlei often told me about his hope that Pastor Wang Yi would not serve the complete nine-year sentence and be released soon while I was in Guiyang. My response was that we might not expect Pastor Wang Yi’s early release, but we and others need to be prepared to be imprisoned with him before his release.
Chunlei regarded being jailed with Pastor Wang Yi as the glory the Lord grants. It turns out that the Lord granted it to him that day.
In fact, Chunlei posted on WeChat Moments that he was willing to be imprisoned with Pastor Wang Yi after the 129 crackdowns in 2018. He was the only one who said this at that time in mainland China, which is rare.
On March 16, 2021, my family returned to Sichuan from Guiyang and stayed in Deyang. Elder Hao Ming, one of my other big brothers, lives here.
In August 2020, Hao Ming and his wife visited me with Chunlei after I was released on bail and planned to return to Chengdu. In early September, I came back to Chengdu but was evicted by Chengdu police by every means, so I had to move. I loaned money from a friend before leaving Chengdu, asking Elder Hao Ming to purchase a property in Deyang (hoping that I could continue to serve the church if I lived adjacent to Chengdu). Elder Hao Ming responded, saying that he would do his best to help me out even if he would be jailed because of it.
I felt that he might have overthought the situation because it was clear that a friend of mine lent me money, and Hao Ming just helped me look for a home and do the paperwork. So in my mind, it should not have brought him any trouble.
Elder Hao Ming took a 2-month leave and helped me purchase the home so that the church he served would not be involved. Back in that time, I planned to move into the Deyang home in mid-December.
However, my move to Deyang was delayed due to various things. I did not move to Deyang until March 16, 2021. Hao Ming officially retired from Qingcaodi Church. He served for many years before I returned to Deyang.
Hao Ming took good care of my family after moving back to Deyang. He invited us to his place, and we had meals together and communicated with each other. So it is incredible that Hao Ming was arrested at his residence on November 17, half an hour after we had lunch and returned home. The initial charge was “fraud,” but I heard the accusation of “inciting subversion of state power” had been added.
Hao Ming has been in custody for four months today.
I am wordless! I am grateful for Chunlei and Hao Ming, I am confident that God is present with them, and they are more blessed than me.
I am sad while thinking of them this spring night. Lord, may you have mercy on them and strengthen Chunlei and Hao Ming. In addition, may you protect my heart and be with me—your weak child as same as you are with them…”
– Li Yingqiang, March 16, 2022, in Deyang, China.
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