Pastor Li Juncai of the Yuanyang County Central House Church in Xinxiang, Henan Province is currently serving a prison sentence of five and a half years after protesting the government’s attempts to remove the cross atop his church building in 2019.
Mass removals of crosses from church buildings began in Henan Province in 2018, with police removing at least 4,000 crosses over the course of a year. Even the crosses of government-run churches were removed, and smaller churches were completely shut down. It is rare to see a cross in Henan province these days.
When authorities brought a crane to remove the cross from Pastor Li Juncai’s church on Feb. 20, 2019, a group of Christian senior citizens, mostly women, met the plainclothes policemen and their crane. The Christians sang hymns and prayed while attempting to keep the authorities from taking the cross. Police beat and arrested the protestors before forcing the church gate open and removing the cross. Pastor Li Juncai told the workers they should proceed according to the law and that he opposed the removal of the crosses. He was arrested and accusing of disrupting public service.
The next day, Religious Affairs authorities removed signs from inside the church building and forced church members to fly China’s national flag from the front of the church. Many churches are now required to do the same, along with hanging an image of President Hu Jingpin in the sanctuary and installing security cameras facing the congregation.
Pastor Li Juncai was charged with embezzlement and obstructing government administration, sentenced to five and a half years in prison and given a fine of more than $7,000 USD.
The Yuanyang County Central House Church was a government-run Three-Self church until 2013, when it merged with a local house church. Each week, they served approximately 700-800 people.