The Party’s Christmas present for Pastor Wang Yi: Nine years for ‘inciting subversion of state power’

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Pastor Wang Yi. Illustration by SupChina.

Reuters reports:

The pastor of one of China’s best-known unregistered “house” churches was sentenced to nine years in prison on Monday on charges of inciting subversion of state power, part of Beijing’s crackdown on unregistered religious groups.

Wáng Yí 王怡, pastor of the Early Rain Covenant Church in the southwestern city of Chengdu, was among dozens of the church’s members and leaders detained by police in December 2018, most of whom were subsequently released…

Wang was profiled in Beijing-based journalist Ian Johnson’s 2017 book The Souls of China: The Return of Religion After Mao [listen to Sinica Podcast], and was also among three Chinese Christians who traveled to Washington in 2006, where they met with then-president George W. Bush, asking for his support in their fight for religious freedom.

Wang was also deprived of his political rights for three years and 50,000 yuan ($7,160) of his personal property was confiscated as part of his sentencing, the court said.

China has a record of issuing harsh sentences during the Christmas and New Year holidays to dissidents, activists, and other people who attract media attention — when Western journalists and politicians are sleeping off their festive hangovers. Below is a list of recent victims (see also CNN’s Why China jails activists at Christmas or China’s grim Christmas ritual: Imprisoning dissidents on the Diplomat):

2018 — rights lawyer Wang Quanzhang
Wáng Quánzhāng 王全璋 was originally detained in August 2015 during the “709 Crackdown” on human rights lawyers and activists. On December 26, he was put on trial for subverting state power. He immediately fired his court-appointed lawyer, causing the case to be adjourned. On January 28, 2019, the government announced that Wang had been found guilty of subverting state power, and sentenced to four and a half years in prison.

2017 — activist “Super Vulgar Butcher”  
Super Vulgar Butcher (超级低俗屠夫 chāojí dīsú túfū) is the social media identity of rights activist Wú Gàn 吴淦. He was sentenced to eight years in prison by a Chinese court for the crime of subversion on December 26.

2015 — lawyer Pu Zhiqiang
Pŭ Zhìqiáng 浦志强, a lawyer who represented artist Ài Wèiwèi艾未未 among others, was given a suspended three-year prison sentence for “picking quarrels” and “inciting ethnic hatred” on December 22.  

2011 — writers Chen Xi and Chen Wei
On December 26, Chén Xī 陈西 was sentenced to 10 years in prison for “inciting subversion of state power” in essays published online on overseas websites. His conviction followed that of writer Chén Wèi 陈卫, who was given nine years for “inciting subversion” on December 23.

2009 — dissident Liu Xiaobo
Nobel Peace Prize–winning writer and dissident Liú Xiǎobō 刘晓波 was sentenced to 11 years of imprisonment and two years of deprivation of political rights on charges of “inciting subversion of state power.” He died of cancer behind bars in 2017.

2007 — activist Hu Jia
Civil rights activist Hú Jiā 胡佳 was arrested at his home on December 27. In 2008, he was sentenced to three and a half years in prison for inciting subversion.