A Chinese pastor who opposed a government campaign to remove crosses atop churches has been sentenced to 14 years in prison for illegal activities, including corruption and disturbing social order. His wife received 12 years for similar crimes.

A court in eastern Zhejiang Province on Friday sentenced Bao Guohua and his wife Xing Wenxiang after concluding they had illegally organized churchgoers to petition the government and disturb social order, according to provincial Zhejiang Daily newspaper.

The couple also was accused of "tricking" members of its congregation into donating $336,000 that was spent on cars and other personal purchases, it said.

For the past two years, authorities have removed hundreds of crosses from churches in the province, where there is a large Christian community, saying they violate building codes.