Wang Yi, pastor of Early Rain Covenant Church in Sichuan province, and his wife remain in secret detention nearly one month after being arrested on allegations of "inciting subversion of state power" and could face up to 15 years in prison.
According to the church Facebook page, Yi and his wife Jiang Rong, who were among 160 Christians detained by authorities in December, remain in detention and are awaiting trial. They're currently being charged for "inciting subversion," a crime that carries a penalty of up to 15 years in prison.
Dozens of other church members remain in detention, according to the page, while some have been sentenced to prison. Still other members of the community are in hiding, some have been effectively exiled from the Sichuanese capital, and others remain under surveillance.
One church member, Wang Jun, has been sentenced to 15 days in prison, according to persecution watchdog China Aid. During the investigation, which lasted for 30 hours, Wang was violently beaten.
Other arrested Christians reported the police hit and trampled them. One of the Christian men had his arms bound and was imprisoned at midnight. From the abuse, his legs bled, and he sustained many injuries. Another said the police bound him to a chair and refused him food and water during his 24-hour detention.
Despite this persecution, remaining members of Early Rain Covenant Church continue to meet in homes or outside. Still, China Aid notes they have been "severely harassed," as government personnel continue to monitor their apartment buildings and follow them if they go out.
There are at least 60 million Christians in China, according to estimates, but believers have seen an uptick in persecution in recent years. In December, Bitter Winter reported that police stations in a city in northeast China are being evaluated based on the number of Christians they arrest.
In its recently-released World Watch List of 50 countries where it's most difficult to be a Christian, persecution watchdog Open Doors USA ranked China #27 -- from #43 in 2018.
"The management of religious affairs lies with the Communist Party now, not just with the government, and Christians are feeling this strongly," says the report. "Crackdowns against Christians happen country-wide and in both state-approved and non-registered churches. The youth are increasingly being removed from church life, worship is monitored via CCTV and spies, and teachers and medical workers are told they are not allowed to have any religious affiliation."