Yang Hua’s wife, Wang Hongwu, came to pick him up on Dec. 20, 2015, from the detention center in China where he had been held since Dec. 9 for his involvement with Living Stone Church, also known as Huoshi Church. But instead of signing paperwork and bringing her husband home, Wang Hongwu witnessed four men from “Detention Management” throw Yang Hua in an unmarked van.
Yang Hua (also known as Li Guoshi, his legal name) serves as a pastor of the Living Stone Church in the southwestern city of Guiyang, China. He is a third-generation pastor and is no stranger to persecution. His father spent time in jail in the late 1960s for his Christian faith. Yang Hua has also been detained before.
The church has been the subject of government harassment since it was founded in 2009 by Yang Hua and Pastor Su Tianfu. In that time, the church grew from approximately 20 to more than 700 members. Authorities have continued to pressure the church to join the government-sanctioned Three-Self Movement or face destruction. Members are monitored, interrogated, and prohibited from attending prayer groups.
Torture In Prison
Yang Hua was transferred to criminal custody on December 22. After his arrest was approved in January, he was accused of “divulging state secrets,” but given no trial date. His wife and his two lawyers were initially denied permission to visit him. When they were finally permitted to visit, they observed prison officials’ harsh treatment and Yang Hua’s poor health.
Recently, Yang Hua reported that government prosecutors have threatened his life, along with those of his wife and children, and stomped on his feet in an effort to force his cooperation. One of the prosecutors told him, “I am a torture expert. I know how to beat you up without leaving a mark on your body for people to see. Doctors won’t be able to diagnose you. Even you won’t know what you died of.”
With the aid of his lawyers, Yang Hua filed a lawsuit against the prosecutors, despite the danger it could cause him. One of his lawyers believes that the pastor was arrested on false charges to intimidate Living Stone Church and that Yang Hua’s case demonstrates the arbitrary denial of basic human rights for many Chinese Christians.
Though she is caring for the couple’s two sons alone, Yang Hua’s wife is most concerned about the well-being of Living Stone Church members in their pastor’s absence. She worries that the government harassment will cause believers to fall away from their faith.
Though the couple faces many personal difficulties ahead and the church faces an uncertain future, they remain committed to the Lord. In a letter to his wife dated June 6, 2016, Yang Hua encouraged Wang Hongwu to continue doing the Lord’s will through prayer, gratitude, and trust in God’s plan, writing, “Let’s pray and leave other things to God.”
A Letter from Prison – Nov. 2016
Yang Hua wrote to his wife from prison on Nov. 8. “After reading your letter, I know some of your concerns. Praise the Lord … Never be dejected and despondent, always look up at our Lord, and always keep the spiritual life above the chaos of the real environment. Rest in God’s arms. ‘Some rely on chariots, some on horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord,’ (Psalm 20:7). Be upright and take care. Be prepared for the rest of the road. I will go with you. If the Lord doesn’t allow it, not a single hair will drop to the floor.”