BEIJING (Christian Examiner) -- A one-year prison sentence has been handed down to Chinese Pastor Huang Yizi for his opposition to the removal of crosses from churches in the eastern province of Zhejiang.
More than 500 Christians from Wenzhou, Huang's home city, and surrounding areas stood outside the Pingyang County People's Court during the six-hour trial that ended in a guilty verdict.
Huang, the first to be jailed in last year's campaign that removed more than 400 crosses from churches charging they violated building codes, was found guilty of gathering crowds to disrupt social order, Fox News reported.
The 40-year-old father of two had been detained since August 2 after plainclothes police officers removed him from his home for his public opposition to the anti-church campaign.
The pastor's detention followed bloody clashes between plainclothes security agents and Christians attempting to stop the removal. Huang's arrest came after he led a group of parishioners to a local government building demanding answers for the attack.
Zhang Kai, Huang's lawyer, reported by telephone to the Associated Press that the charge stemmed largely from the gathering in front of the government building. Zhang said the court rejected the defense's argument that Huang was justified in his activism because authorities had violated the law in removing the cross by force.
Religious rights advocates say the ruling Communist Party is unnerved by the rapid growth of Christianity, reported Tom Phillips, Shanghai, for The Telegraph, UK, last year. Wenzhou is sometimes referred to as China's Jerusalem due to its large Christian population.
China Aid, an international non-profit Christian human rights organization committed to promoting religious freedom and the rule of law in China, issued this statement from president and founder Xiqiu "Bob" Fu:
"China Aid condemns this new case of religious persecution against an innocent pastor," Fu said. "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."