A court in southeastern China has sentenced a Protestant pastor to 14 years in prison and his wife to 12 years after convicting them of corruption, financial crimes and gathering people to disturb social order, an official provincial newspaper reported on Friday.
The sentences for the pastor, Bao Guohua, and his wife, Xing Wenxiang, were among the harshest imposed recently on clergy members and their associates in China. The newspaper reported that a court had sentenced an additional 10 people who were members of Mr. Bao’s church or a Christian group in the same city, Jinhua, in Zhejiang Province, but it did not give details of those sentences.
The newspaper, Zhejiang Daily, also said that the court had ordered the confiscation from Mr. Bao of 600,000 renminbi, or about $92,000, and fined him $15,300. It said his wife also had $92,000 confiscated and received a fine of less than $14,000.
Officials have removed more than 1,200 crosses from churches and other buildings and in some cases have destroyed entire churches. The government is especially concerned about so-called house churches, which are neither approved nor overseen by officials.
Mr. Bao had official approval to lead a congregation, and he oversaw a government-sanctioned church. Zheng Leguo, a house church preacher now living in the United States, said in an interview on Friday that he believed that Mr. Bao, who has been in detention since at least August, was being persecuted because he had tried to defend his church against an order to take down its cross. Few other government-approved pastors in Jinhua have opposed the campaign of cross removals..