Christians in north China are facing a Christmas of fear after 10 local religious leaders were jailed in recent weeks and their new church shut down amid a crackdown on unauthorised worship.
Five of the church leaders were given prison terms of up to seven-years by a Linfen court, while the others were sentenced without trial to labour camps for two years, their lawyer said.
Their crimes? “Illegally occupying farm land” and “disturbing transportation through a mass gathering”.
“The authorities are clearly sending a message to the Christians,” lawyer Li Fanping, who defended the church leaders at their trial last month, told AFP. He expressed shock at the severity of the punishment for minor offences.