The hammer comes down
The road leading to Pastor Juncai’s imprisonment started in 2013 when Central House Church relinquished its status as a government-sanctioned church and merged with a local house church. The congregation grew to be the largest local house church, with 700 to 800 believers and several buildings.
Six years later on February 20, 2019, the Chinese Communist Party arrested Pastor Juncai, charging him with “obstructing government administration,” as well as three church staff leaders, Wu Raoyun, Ban Yun and Ma Yanfang.
The next day, 200 people, including Yuanyang County religious affairs bureau authorities and police, forcibly removed the church’s cross—a practice the Chinese government continues to use as they carry out President Xi Jinping’s focus on nationalism. They didn’t stop there. They went inside, ordering the church to replace “Love your God,” “Love God and people” and “Love your neighbor” signs with “Love the country.” Finally, authorities forced church members to raise the Chinese flag in front of the church.
A month after Pastor Juncai’s arrest, authorities set bail for the three staff members arrested with him—but the pastor remained in jail. Authorities accused him of embezzlement, obstructing government administration and destruction of accounting records.
At Pastor Juncai’s first hearing in August, prosecutors asked for a prison sentence of six-and-a-half to nine-and-a-half years. The court didn’t issue a verdict. Then in early December 2019, the state secretly brought the hammer down once again.
Some 500 church members watched as the building they had erected in 2008 came crumbling down—on demolition orders from the CCP. They were told to not speak of what they had seen.
One believer told ChinaAid, “Officials from the local Ethnic and Religious Affairs Commission, policemen, and urban management officers showed up amidst the more than 500 people who attended church December 6, 2019. Several asked us to join a Three-Self church, but we again refused. After demolishing the church, governmental officials ordered us to keep what happened secret. They blocked information so that only a few people knew about the forced church demolition.”
Reportedly, authorities classified Yuanyang County Central House Church’s building as illegal. Believers in the church, however, reported that the church had obtained all licenses required for building.
One spokesperson said, “We have a land use permit, a construction project planning permit, as well as other legal certificates and a permit for religious sites, all issued by government supervisors. But—the government needs this land.”
Several legal professionals familiar with Pastor Juncai’s case have said, “What Pastor Juncai has done does not constitute a crime. The charges by the authorities against him consist of unclear facts and insufficient evidence.”
top photo: Pastor Juncai before this arrest; Yuanyang County Central House Church after cross forcibly removed and forced to fly China’s flag.