Pastor Bao Guohua and his wife Xing Wenxiang have been sentenced to spend more than 10 years in jail after Chinese authorities charged them with social disorder and corruption. But, according to the supporters of the couple, the indictment on the two exemplifies the government's actions against Christian activities in the country.
According to the South China Morning Post, the crackdown on the two began after they urged members of their congregation to oppose the Chinese government's campaign to remove crosses in churches, which has become an ongoing issue between Christians in the Zhejiang province and authorities.
Since the campaign was enacted in August of last year, over a thousand crosses have already been removed in different churches in the province.
The news site noted that the campaign was launched to target religious organizations not backed by the government, which are regarded by authorities as evil cults.
Due to the threat on their faith and religious freedom, Guohua and his wife launched a petition to fight the government's actions against their church and its members. However, according to the government, the petition was illegally organized and the couple's actions against the state disturbs social order.
Authorities also accused the two of corruption, stating that Guohua and Wenxiang allegedly tricked the church's members into donating a total of $336,000 which they used for personal purchases.
Due to the allegations, the pastor was sentenced to 14 years in prison. His wife, on the other hand, was given a 12-year jail sentence. Aside from imprisonment, the two are also facing a fine of about $15,000. A portion of their assets was also confiscated by the government, BBC has learned.
But for China Aid, a non-profit organization based in Texas that supports the efforts in opposing the removal of crosses, the imprisonment of Guohua and Wenxiang shows the prevalence of Christian persecution in China.
"The government's criminal prosecution against the pastor and his believers is actually religious prosecution," the group said in a statement according to Al Jazeera.