Chinese pastor Wang Yi’s wife Jiang Rong accused of inciting subversion and held in unknown location after Christian crackdown
- Jiang is implicated along with her outspoken husband, who has been placed under criminal detention in an unspecified location, along with at least seven others
- She could be detained for up to six months in what appears to be an attempt at intimidation and deterring advocacy efforts on the case, a lawyer said
The wife of detained unofficial church pastor Wang Yi has been placed under “residential surveillance” – a form of secret detention – for allegedly inciting subversion of state power.
Jiang Rong was implicated along with her outspoken husband, who has been placed under criminal detention and is also accused of inciting subversion.
In an open letter released after he was detained, Wang wrote that he would use non-violent methods to stand by his faith and oppose “wicked laws” that he said went against the Bible and God – including those allowing crackdowns on churches.
He was one of more than 100 leaders, seminary students and worshippers taken into custody on Sunday evening after a raid on the Early Rain Covenant Church, one of China’s most prominent unofficial churches, in Chengdu, Sichuan province. Some were taken from their homes or the streets, and some said they were abused while in police custody.
Church members on Thursday said at least seven others had been placed under criminal detention.
It was not known what had happened to Jiang until Thursday, when congregants circulated a police notice stating she had been placed under “residential surveillance at a designated location” on Monday afternoon.
A lawyer who declined to be named said Jiang could be kept at the unspecified location for up to six months, and that the move appeared to be aimed at intimidation and deterring advocacy efforts on the case.
“Accusations can be made against pastor Wang Yi – after all, he’s the one at the lectern doing all the preaching. But his wife doesn’t hold any position in the church, nor has she made any public comments,” the lawyer said.
“There are no words to describe the absurdity of this situation … the handling of the case shows how furious the top party leadership is about the church.”
Wang’s mother, 73-year-old Chen Yaxue, told the South China Morning Post she found out her son had been criminally detained, accused of inciting subversion of state power, when Chengdu police came to her flat on Wednesday.
She said police had escorted Jiang and her 11-year-old son to Chen’s home on Sunday evening after the church raid. Jiang was allowed to stay for only two hours, and Chen is now taking care of her grandson and they have been placed under round-the-clock surveillance.
“They follow us wherever we go,” she said. “The surveillance is taking a huge toll on my grandson – he’s in shock after [his parents were taken away]. He hasn’t slept for two nights.”
According to China’s criminal code, the charges against Wang could result in a sentence of up to five years, but up to 15 years in extreme cases.
Meanwhile, Wang’s assistant Li Yingqiang, who had been posting updates about the crackdown online, has been criminally detained for allegedly picking a quarrel and inciting trouble, according to members of the church.
Church leaders Qin Defu and Ge Yingfeng along with church member Lu Jinheng were detained for alleged illegal operations. Three other congregants are said to have been criminally detained.
The Chengdu city government did not respond to requests for comment.
Two days after Wang was taken away, church members released an open letter titled “My declaration of faithful disobedience” that he wrote in September. According to church members, Wang told them they should publicise the letter if he went missing for more than 48 hours.
In it, the pastor said he was willing to accept the Communist Party regime and submit to Chinese law enforcement but he condemned the authorities’ persecution of the church.
“But this does not mean that my personal disobedience and the disobedience of the church is in any sense ‘fighting for rights’ or political activism in the form of civil disobedience, because my intention is not to change any institutions or laws in China,” Wang wrote.
Before becoming a pastor, Wang was a human rights activist and a constitutional scholar. His reputation reaches far overseas, especially among the Chinese Christian community. In 2006, Wang met then US president George W. Bush in the White House.
The round-up in Chengdu is part of a broader crackdown on unofficial or underground churches that Beijing has escalated this year and observers have said is the worst seen in the past three decades.
The campaign has been bolstered by amendments to the Religious Affairs Regulation that gives grass-roots officials more power to act against churches and impose tougher penalties for “unauthorised religious gatherings”.
Many Christian churches in China are unofficial, operating from private residences or properties. Officially sanctioned churches must be approved and supervised by the authorities, and toe the party line.
Early Rain is a rare “house” church that is open about its activities, broadcasting sermons online and evangelising in public – others tend to operate underground to avoid attention from the authorities.
Weekly gatherings take place at more than a dozen meeting points around Chengdu, with more than 800 congregants attending, according to church leaders. It also has about 100 seminary students and a primary school catering to about 40 children.