A home church pastor who has suffered extreme torture at the hands of China's police for nearly a year after being falsely accused of divulging state secrets could stand trial as soon as this month.
Yang Hua, the commonly used pseudonym of Li Guozhi, served as a pastor for the frequently persecuted Huoshi Church until he was detained by authorities on Dec. 9, 2015 after he attempted to prevent them from confiscating one of the church's hard drives. He was subsequently accused of "illegally possessing state secrets" later that month, and the charge was intensified to "divulging state secrets" on Jan. 22, when Yang was formally arrested.
Persecution watchdog China Aid notes that throughout his detention, authorities have refused to let Yang see his family or legal representation and have reportedly used threats and various methods of torture in attempts to extract a confession from him.
At one point, a prosecutor reportedly told him, "You'd better confess. Your life is in my hands. I'm here to meet with you because I see you as an ally. If you refuse to cooperate, I'll treat you as a spy, as someone on the opposing side. In that case, we won't treat you this nicely. I can make you disappear from the face of the earth. I'm a powerful man. Not one of the policemen [at this detention center] would stand if I asked him to get on his knees. [If you refuse to cooperate,) not only you, but your wife and your children will face problems. I'm 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."
One of Yang's attorneys, Zhao Yonglin, was allowed to meet with him nearly eight months later and discovered that the Nanming District Procuratorate had submitted a videotape to the court as evidence in the case.
"Attorney Zhao visited Yang Hua yesterday," Wang Hongwu, Yang's wife, told the reporter. "He said he had reviewed all of the case files and the case is likely to be tried in August. He said that Yang Hua was doing well and told us not to worry about him. [Yang] is concerned that we get too worried about his wellbeing. He would feel more at peace if we're not too worried for him."
Though no official date for the trial has been announced, Yang's lawyers believe it will be soon.
Despite his uncertain future, the pastor has maintained his faith: Last month, he penned a letter to his wife describing how God is using this time of pain and uncertainty for His glory.
"This is a good place to rest, where I am cut off from the rest of the world and brought closer to God," he wrote of his jail cell. "I can no longer hear the clamorous noise, but can better listen to the Lord's voice."
The pastor added, "Genuine rest has nothing to do with the environment. No matter if the waves are quiet or the sea roars, our hearts rest in [God], just as a weaned child sleeps in its mother's arms. I want to thank God for using this special method to give this special gift to our household. Let us accept and enjoy it with a thankful heart."
China is placed 33rd on Open Door USA's World Watch List of countries where Christians face the most persecution.
China Aid has launched a campaign to free Yang Hua, and to learn more about his case, sign the petition for his release and donate to support the persecuted and their families, please visit www.freeyanghua.org.