A Christian pastor has been sentenced to year in prison in China for standing up for churches whose crosses were being removed by the government.
Huang Yizi was charged by a local court in Pingyang County and convicted of “gathering crowds to disturb social order, according to The New York Times. The charges stemmed from a July 2014 incident in Which Huang allegedly led local residents in demanding answers from the county government as to why more than 50 residents were beaten when they tried to stop the police from removing a cross from the exterior of Salvation Church. It was reported that officers had used iron batons to beat whoever was in their path and one congregation member suffered a fractured skull.
A week later, Huang allegedly gathered a large crowd from his congregation at a local government office building demanding answers about the violent incident. He also called the removal of the crosses a “severe persecution” and an insult to the Christian population of China.
Officials for advocacy watchdog group China Aid said that more than 500 Christians had stood outside court on Tuesday as Yizi was sentenced, according to Christian Today. The group also called for his immediate release.
"China Aid condemns this new case of religious persecution against an innocent pastor," China Aid founder and President Bob Fu said to the news site. "Through arbitrary arrest, baseless prosecution, and illegal procedures throughout the trial, this case shows once again the worsening situation of religious freedom and rule of law in China. We call upon China's higher authorities to overturn this unjust decision and free Pastor Huang immediately."
Christianity has had a recent surge in the Zhejiang province along the eastern coastal area of China. The city of Wenzhou is even referred to as the “Jerusalem of the East.”
The recent crackdown by the government on the church has led those in the region to believe that the government is specifically targeting Christians in a power play. It is believed that 300 churches in the region have been destroyed with many more forced to remove crosses.