|An elder of Early Rain Church in Chengdu, China, was released from prison after completing a four-year prison sentence on 9 December.
Elder Qin Defu was arrested on 9 December 2018 along with over 100 other members of Early Rain Church as part of a crackdown on the church by the authorities. In November 2019 he was charged with ‘illegal business operations,’ which the authorities claim was in relation to 20,000 Christian books used by the church, and sentenced to four years in prison.
Also detained on 9 December 2018 was the church’s pastor Wang Yi, who is currently serving a nine-year prison sentence on charges of ‘inciting subversion’ and ‘illegal business operations’ after being sentenced on 26 December 2019. In August 2019 the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention adopted the opinion that the detention of Pastor Wang and his wife Jiang Rong, who has since been released on bail, was arbitrary.
Members of Early Rain Church have reported continued harassment in the years since the crackdown, with many facing intrusive surveillance, threats of eviction, and prevented from meeting for religious purposes.
CSW’s Founder President Mervyn Thomas said: ‘CSW welcomes the release of Elder Qin Defu, however we believe that he has spent four years unjustly separated from his family and friends. The charges against him were completely unfounded, as are those against Pastor Wang Yi, who was jailed as a reprisal for speaking out on behalf of churches and Christians in China. We call on the Chinese authorities to ensure that Elder Qin is able to enjoy his freedom without further harassment, and for the targeting of members of Early Rain Church to stop. Pastor Wang Yi must also be released immediately and without conditions.’