Pastor probed for embezzlement

Source:Global Times Published: 2016-2-1 1:08:02

Authorities deny investigation related to demolition protest

A senior pastor at the largest church in Hangzhou, East China's Zhejiang Province has been put under investigation for suspected embezzlement.

Citing information from "related authorities," a Friday statement from the Christian Council of Zhejiang said Pastor Joseph Gu is under investigation for suspected embezzlement of funds, adding that it was "purely a personal act."

"We believe that churches in Hangzhou would not be affected by an individual act," the statement said, calling on other pastoral staff to become good citizens and good believers acting in line with the law.

The statement came after the council announced on January 19 that Gu's senior pastor's position at Hangzhou's biggest church, the Chongyi Protestant Church, would be handed over to Zhang Zhongcheng, permanent deputy chairman of the Three-Self Patriotic Movement of the Protestant Churches of Hangzhou.

On January 21, the council denied in an interview with the Global Times that the change in church leadership was revenge for any "mistakes," stressing that it was a normal personnel adjustment and that Gu, who is also president of the Christian Council of Zhejiang, would work full time at the provincial council in the future.

On Sunday, the Chongyi Protestant Church called to pray for "Pastor Gu" so that he could stick to his faith in God in the face of adversity and fight for God under any circumstances.

Rumor has it that the replacement of Gu was due to his opposition to the relocation of church crosses or church demolition in Zhejiang.

An alleged open letter from the Zhejiang Christian Council in July 2015 said that the province has relocated over 1,200 crosses, including those at licensed churches.

China prohibits construction of buildings without prior acquisition of necessary approval from local authorities.

In April 2014, the Sanjiang Church in Wenzhou, Zhejiang Province was demolished because it had used five times more space than approved.

Zhejiang is drafting a new regulation for religious structures. The draft states crosses churches must be attached to the front side of the main building, and the ratio of the cross's length and building's height should be no bigger than 1 to 10.

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