ICC NOTE: As pastor Gu ‘Joseph’ Yuese languishes in a Chinese prison, he remains positive penning a letter to his congregation asking them to support the newly appointed pastor of the Chongyi Church.
Pastor Yuese was charged by authorities for embezzling $1.6 million in funds on February 6. The Chongyi Church is the largest government sanctioned church in the province boasting a congregation of 10,000. He is the highest profile arrest of a church leader since the Cultural Revolution under Mao.
Hangzhou, Zhejiang(China Aid)- A pastor imprisoned on embezzlement charges in China’s coastal Zhejiang released a letter via his lawyer that contained a message to the members of his church on Feb. 4.
Gu “Joseph” Yuese, the chairman of the provincial China Christian Council (CCC), was criminally detained on Jan. 29 and later arrested on charges of “embezzling 10 million Yuan (U.S. $1.6 million) in funds” on Feb. 6. Preceding this incident, the Three-Self Patriotic Movement (TSPM) and CCC ousted Gu from his position as senior pastor of China’s largest government-backed church, Chongyi Church, on Jan. 18.
Many Christians speculate that these actions are tied to Gu’s public advocacy against the ongoing cross removal campaign.
According to China Aid President Bob Fu, Gu is the highest-ranked religious official to be taken into police custody since the Cultural Revolution.
In the message, Gu conveys New Year’s greetings to his fellow Christians and asks that they support Zhang Zhongcheng, the senior pastor appointed by the TSPM and CCC to replace him, saying, “I believe that God can bless Pastor Zhang Zhongcheng by improving upon Chongyi Church, which is the Lord’s church!”
He also stated his intent to cooperate with the authorities’ investigation and asked that Christians pray rather than coordinate protests or inquire after the situation. Some have said that they believe Gu was forced to write the letter.
China Aid reports stories such as Gu’s so as to expose religious freedom abuses and promote freedom of religion and rule of law in China.