Despite being released from prison months ago, a house church pastor in China is still under government surveillance as persecution across the country escalates.
Persecution watchdog China Aid reports that Yang Hua, who was imprisoned after being charged with "divulging state secrets," continues to be "stalked by officials wherever he goes" — even though he was released from prison in June. Yang, pastor of Living Stone Church, the largest house church in Guiyang, capital of China's southwest Guizhou Province, was taken into police custody in 2015 after he attempted to stop authorities from confiscating a church hard drive.
During his time in prison, the pastor endured repeated torture and ailing health. Inadequate prison medical care left him unable to walk for weeks, and he was only treated in hospital after his lawyers sought medical bail, according to reports.
China Aid previously noted that throughout his detention, authorities refused to let Yang see his family or legal representation and have reportedly used threats and various methods of torture in attempts to extract a confession from him.
Yet, in a letter penned to his wife in 2016, Yang described how God had used the time of pain and uncertainty for His glory.
"This is a good place to rest, where I am cut off from the rest of the world and brought closer to God," he wrote of his jail cell. "I can no longer hear the clamorous noise, but can better listen to the Lord's voice."
The pastor added, "Genuine rest has nothing to do with the environment. No matter if the waves are quiet or the sea roars, our hearts rest in [God], just as a weaned child sleeps in its mother's arms. I want to thank God for using this special method to give this special gift to our household. Let us accept and enjoy it with a thankful heart."
Even as Yang attempts to recover from his time in prison, the persecution around him continues to increase, notes China Aid. Recently, more than 10 churches were closed by authorities, and unregistered congregations consisting of more than 50 people are faced with either being forced to become official churches or experiencing the authorities' retaliation.
Bob Fu, head of China Aid, told Congress in September that the persecution of Christians and other religious minorities in China is at its most intense since the Cultural Revolution.
Fu warned that such persecution will only intensify, as the Three Self Patriotic Movement and the Chinese Christian Council (China's state-sanctioned Protestant bodies) have developed a five-year plan on "promoting the Sinicization of Christianity."
"The plan made it clear that 'Sinicization of Christianity' means to change 'Christianity in China' into 'Chinese Christianity,'" he explained, according to The Christian Post. [The plan] emphasized that 'the heart and soul of Christianity's Sinicization is to Sincize the Christian theology,' and even proposing to 're-translate the Bible or re-write biblical commentaries.'"
"There are outlines that the new Bible should not look westernized and [should look] Chinese and reflect Chinese ethics of Confucianism and socialism," Fu said. "The Old Testament will be messed up. The New Testament will have new commentaries to interpret it."
Additionally, the five-year plan advocates for "incorporating the Chinese elements into church worship services, hymns and songs, clergy attire, and the architectural style of church buildings."
"In the beginning of every church worship service, the choir of the church has to sing a few communist revolutionary songs praising the communist party before they can sing the worship songs," he said.
China ranks as the 43rd worst country in the world when it comes to Christian Persecution, according to Open Doors USA's 2018 World Watch List.