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Chinese pastor emerges from prison in poor health

(freeyanghua.org)Featured in the image is Pastor Li Guozhi, also known as Yang Hua.

Pastor Yang Hua of Living Stone Church in China's Guizhou Province was released from prison earlier this week after completing a two-and-a-half-year sentence, but he is now suffering from several health problems due to the lack of medical care during his incarceration.

According to Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), Yang was detained on the charge of "illegally possessing state secrets" in December 2015 and sentenced to two-and-a-half years in prison in January 2017.

He was released from prison on June 19, but friends and supporters have said that he is now in need of urgent medical attention due to several unspecified health issues.

His lawyer had reported in March last year that he was on the "verge of paralysis" due to severe inflammation on his legs, and he also suffered from skin condition after his incarceration.

Another pastor at Living Stone Church, Su Tianfu, also received a suspended one-year prison sentence and six months of residential surveillance after his trial in April this year.

CSW reported that the two pastors were also fined over US$1 million for collecting donations from church members. The donations have been declared illegal, prompting the two church leaders to file several appeals, arguing that the money was voluntarily donated by parishioners and was only used for church activities.

After losing their appeal, the government reportedly shut down Living Stone church and sold its meeting places to investors.

Prior to Yang's arrest, the church reportedly drew 700 parishioners from various backgrounds, including students, bankers, rights activists and government officials. The congregation reportedly met at three different locations and were active in community projects.

The church was forced to close following a raid during the opening ceremony of a new venue in 2015.

Yang's wife, Wang Hongwu, recounted the day when her husband was detained by government officials.

"Today, I went to pick up Pastor Yang, but I failed. [I] saw four people pushing Yang Hua into a van without a license plate," Wang wrote on Chinese social media site Weibo, according to Release International.

"Pastor Yang put on a black hood, and his mouth might have been sealed. I called out to him, but he didn't respond. Those four people did not allow me to approach him. They pushed Pastor Yang into the car and sped away. I asked the detention centre, and they only said that the department managing him took him away. They could not tell me which department [had taken him]. Then, I went home ... I can only hand everything to the Lord!" she added.

Apart from Yang and Su, the officials also detained a church deacon named Zhang Xiuhong for more than two years. Zhang was eventually released in August 2017, according to World Watch Monitor.

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