The pastor of a house church in China's coastal Zhejiang province has asked the international community to pray for him amid fears he may be re-arrested.
According to persecution watchdog China Aid, Huang Yizi, the pastor of Fengwo Church, was released on bail a year ago after he protested the Communist government's cross demolition campaign. Just six weeks after his release, authorities unexpectedly took Huang back into police custody on trumped up charges of "stealing, spying on, buying or illegally providing State secrets for institutions, organizations and people outside the country."
He was denied permission to see his family and meet with a lawyer, and officials even denied relatives the opportunity to send him necessities, such as money and clothes. He was eventually released, but earlier this month again received orders to return to the police station.
"Please pray for me. I will not return if they want me to do something that contradicts the law, the truth, my belief, or my conscience. If I am really sentenced during the [Lunar] New Year, sisters and brothers [in Christ], please believe that I always have a clear conscience toward God and my fellow men," Huang said.
Huang's wife told China Aid that she and several other local Christians believe that he was ordered to come to the police station because Feb. 5 marked the one-year anniversary of his release. According to Chinese law, if he is found not in violation of bail rules, he may remain free, but, if officials determine that he has violated those precepts, he may subject to arrest.
According to China Aid, Huang was first arrested when he and several others protested the mistreatment of Christians working to protect their church's cross from demolition. Ten days later, he was apprehended and charged with "gathering a crowd to assault a state agency" - a charge which later was altered to "gathering a crowd to disturb public order."
There are believed to be over 100 million Christians in China, while the Communist Party has nearly 88 million members. Over the past few years, the government has shown discomfort with the growth and influence of Christianity, and its adherents have particularly been targeted in China's "Three Rectification and One Demolition" beautification campaign, which has seen the demolition of at least 1,200 crosses and numerous places of worship.
Hundreds of Christians, including pastors, lawyers, and activists, have been arrested for speaking out against the ongoing persecution, and many of them are still detained.
Because of this, China is ranked 29th on Open Door USA's World Watch List of 50 countries where it is most difficult to be a believer.