Detained Since: December 9, 2018.
Charges: Illegal business operations and inciting to subvert state power.
Sentence: Nine years in prison.
Biography: Wang Yi was a human rights attorney before converting to Christianity in 2005. In 2008, he founded the Early Rain Covenant Church in Chengdu, Yunnan Province. The church became one of the most prominent unregistered churches in the country.
The government requires Protestant Christians to worship only in churches recognized and regulated by the party-led Three-Self Patriotic Movement, but Pastor Wang Yi refused to register the church. On December 9, 2018, the Early Rain Covenant Church was shut down during a series of government raids on church gatherings. Pastor Wang Yi and more than 100 members of his congregation were detained by authorities.
The church released a prepared statement from its pastor after his arrest denouncing the Chinese Communist Party’s restrictions on religious freedom. “I firmly believe that Christ has called me to carry out this faithful disobedience through a life of service, under this regime that opposes the gospel and persecutes the church,” he wrote in a widely shared Declaration of Faithful Disobedience. “This is the means by which I preach the gospel, and it is the mystery of the gospel which I preach.”
On December 26, 2019, Pastor Wang Yi was tried for “inciting to subvert state power” and “illegal business operations.” On December 30, he was sentenced to nine years imprisonment, the longest prison term issued against a house church pastor in a decade, according to World Magazine reporter June Cheng. Wang stated that he denies whatever charges the government has against him, but will serve his time.
The Conference for Global Christians in Law awarded him the 2008 “Prize for the Contribution to Promoting Religious Freedom.” In 2006, Pastor Wang Yi met with President George W. Bush at the White House. The State Department has also commented on his arrest and trial.
Advocate: Rep. Vicky Hartzler (R-MO)
Advocacy Partner: U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom