A prominent Chinese pastor of the ‘official’ state-sanctioned church was jailed for 12 years on Friday morning for “gathering crowds to disturb public order” and fraud.

World Watch Monitor reported on Pastor Zhang Shaojie, of the Nanle County Church in eastern China, and 23 other members of its congregation, who were detained for protesting against incidents related to church property in November 2013.

In December, Sky TV broadcast an attack by alleged government-hired aggressors on the lawyers who were hired to defend 17 of those who were still detained.

Shaojie appeared to have been pushing the boundaries of what might be deemed ‘appropriate’ for a church leader within the government-sanctioned Three Self Patriotic Movement, not least in now hiring lawyers known to be close to the outspoken China Aid Association, which alerted international media to the complex case.

Amid the government’s mass demolitions of churches, Nanle County Church said the government has failed to adhere to Article 35 of the Constitution of the People’s Republic of China, which states: “Citizens of the People’s Republic of China enjoy freedom of speech, of the press, of assembly, of association, of procession, and of demonstration.”

Source: The Telegraph