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A pastor arrested eight months ago along with 160 congregants as part of an ongoing Chinese crackdown on religion remains missing and advocates say may be facing torture.
One of the church elders, Li Yingqiang, arrested during the targeting of Early Rain Covenant Church in December, was released on bail earlier this week by Chinese authorities. The prominent congregation member remains subject to prosecution.
“Based on past imprisonments of previous people, he is almost definitely being tortured. We haven’t seen any reports that necessarily confirm that, but just based on previous reports we have received of other people, that’s very common,” Brynne Lawrence, an associate at religious freedom nonprofit China Aid, told the Washington Examiner.
Early Rain Covenant Church faced harassment from authorities for several years prior to last December’s crackdown. Lawrence said Chinese president Xi Jinping has promoted “religion with Chinese characteristics” since taking power, leading to an uptick in persecution.
In practice, “religion with Chinese characteristics” means regulating religious communities to ensure they do not undermine the Communist Party and subjecting them to harassment when necessary.
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