The Chinese communist concept of "public order" has once again trumped the freedoms of speech, assembly and religion.
According to UCANews.com and other media, a Chinese court on Tuesday sentenced a Protestant pastor to one year in prison for “gathering a crowd to disturb public order.”
How? Pastor Huang Yizi and a group of Christians tried unsuccessfully to protect the cross of Salvation Church from police in July last year.
The sentencing was the first prison term handed down by authorities in Zhejiang province following a demolition campaign targeting hundreds of churches.
Supporters say the charges are trumped up.
“I think the whole trial was manipulated by the authorities,” the pastor’s lawyer, Zhang Kai, told The Telegraph, adding that his client would appeal. The British paper said:
The lawyer said around 1,000 Christian supporters gathered outside the court in Pingyang County in the eastern province of Zhejiang. He met his the pastor before the hearing and believed “his state of mind was good.”
Last year Mr Huang, who has a wife and young son, said he was “grateful that God has given him the chance" to go to prison for speaking out against the demolition of churches and crosses in Zhejiang province where he is from.
At least 400 churches were affected by the one-year campaign that saw elderly Christians repeatedly try to defend their places of worship from demolition teams and security guards. Authorities denied Christian churches were being targeted claiming they were taking action against all “illegal structures.”
UCANews gave more background:
Pastor Huang of Fenwo Church was detained in August, a month after baton-wielding police forced their way past Christians at Salvation Church during the height of a provincial campaign in which 400 crosses were removed and 35 churches destroyed in Zhejiang.
A US-based human rights watchdog is following the developments closely, as UCANews reported: “Through arbitrary arrests, baseless prosecution and illegal procedures throughout this trial, this case shows once again the worsening situation of religious freedom and rule of law in China,” said Pastor Bob Fu, president of China Aid.
Said Fu: “We call upon China’s higher authorities to overturn this unjust decision and free Pastor Huang immediately.”