A key Christian leader of Early Rain Covenant Church in China has been released on bail and reunited with her son six months after she and other members of the congregation were detained and their megachurch shut down by communist authorities.
This week, the Facebook page for Early Rain Covenant Church announced that Jiang Rong, wife of church pastor Wang Yi, was released and reunited with the couple’s 11-year-old son, Shuya, who had been living without his parents since they were detained.
Jiang and Wang, who led the 5,000-member church, were initially seized on the night of Dec. 9 and charged with "inciting subversion of state power” as authorities conducted a mass arrest of their church members.
Jiang was later confirmed to be under an unofficial form of incarceration called “residential surveillance at a designated location.” International Christian Concern notes that inmates held in this manner are incarcerated in secretive places instead of state-run prisons and are often subjected to torture and other abuses.
The outlet predicts that Jiang will most likely face a difficult trial as charges continued to be pressed against her because of her leadership role at the church. She also led prayer and women’s groups and hosted Bible study groups at their home.
In December following the arrest of Wang and his wife, over 160 church members were arrested. About half of them were quickly released, but 54 were held for a period of days or months.
Wang, one of China’s most prominent pastors, remains in “secret detention” along with several other church members. Church members who have been released from detention said the authorities planned to charge him with “inciting to subvert state power,” a charge that can result in up to 10 years’ imprisonment.
Wang's mother, Chen Yaxue, previously told the South China Morning Post that following the church members’ arrest, police escorted her grandson and Jiang to her home to arrange care for the boy. Jiang was allowed to stay for only two hours before police took her away.
Chen revealed that both she and her grandson were placed under round-the-clock surveillance, taking a “huge toll” on the 11 year old.
"They follow us wherever we go," she said. "The surveillance is taking a huge toll on my grandson — he's in shock after [his parents were taken away]. He hasn't slept for two nights."
"I'm very sad and confused, not sure what to think now," she added.
In China, Christian churches must be approved by the government, with their activities strictly regulated and monitored. Christians who do not comply with government demands continue to be arrested for worshiping according to their faith.
China’s crackdown on non-state-sponsored religion has seen the demolition of churches and the removal of hundreds of crosses from churches.
Ahead of his arrest, Pastor Wang was vocal about the government’s human rights abuses targeting Christians and spoke out against issues like forced abortions. The pastor also openly prayed for victims of the massacre that crushed the Tiananmen Square democracy movement on June 4, 1989.
After Wang was detained, the church released his statement explaining his nonviolent resistance to China’s rulers.
“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. “This is the means by which I preach the Gospel, and it is the mystery of the Gospel which I preach.”
The pastor expressed hope that God will use the persecution of Chinese Christians "to help more Chinese people to despair of their futures, to lead them through a wilderness of spiritual disillusionment and through this to make them know Jesus."
He said that the persecution of believers and followers of Christ "is the most wicked and the most horrendous evil of Chinese society."
"This is not only a sin against Christians. It is also a sin against all non-Christians. For the government is brutally and ruthlessly threatening them and hindering them from coming to Jesus. There is no greater wickedness in the world than this," he declared.
"If this regime is one day overthrown by God, it will be for no other reason than God's righteous punishment and revenge for this evil. For on Earth, there has only ever been a thousand-year church. There has never been a thousand-year government. There is only eternal faith. There is no eternal power," the pastor added.
China ranks as the 27th worst country in the world when it comes to the persecution of Christians, according to Open Doors USA’s 2019 World Watch List.