CHENGDU (Church in Chains) — On Nov. 29, elder Qin Derfu of Early Rain Covenant Church (ERCC) in Chengdu, Sichuan province was sentenced to four years in prison for “illegal business operations.” It emerged at the trial that the charge related to 20,000 Christian books used by the church. The authorities reneged on a promise to Qin’s family that he would be released if he accepted a state-appointed lawyer.
The Qingyang People’s Court only allowed two family members to attend the trial, which was held on Nov. 25, so no one from ERCC was present. Many plainclothes officials reportedly gathered outside the court to intimidate Qin’s supporters.
Following the trial, Qin’s wife Xiao Hongliu posted on social media: “Dad and I returned home accompanied by the police. The prosecutor accused Qin Derfu of running an illegal business, and the lawyer defended for his innocence. Qin Derfu also testified that it is not a crime to have faith. We pray and look up to God for the result — justice is in His hand.”
Qin Derfu was arrested in December 2018 during the government’s crackdown on ERCC, one of China’s most prominent unregistered house churches, with more than eight hundred members. About 150 church members were detained and held for various periods of time, but all have been released except Qin and church pastor Wang Yi, who is awaiting trial.