Evangelist Chen Wensheng was sentenced to a year and seven months in prison last month by a court in Hengyang City, Hunan Province, China on charges that he organized and funded illegal gatherings. He plans to appeal the verdict.

Known internationally as China’s “Gospel Warrior”, Chen has been arrested more than 100 times for his work as a street evangelist and has spent more than 130 days in prison on what authorities classify as administrative detention. But according to Voice of the Martyrs Korea Representative Dr. Hyun Sook Foley, this latest sentence is the harshest one yet. 

Last August, Evangelist Chen Wensheng attempted to take a flight from Shanghai to Jeju Island but was intercepted at Shanghai Airport and sent back to Hengyang and placed under administrative detention,” says Representative Foley. “Normally that means they would hold him for two weeks and then release him, as they had done every time in the past. But when he was due to have been released on September 18, they instead increased the charge to a criminal one: ‘organizing and financing illegal gatherings’ and kept him in prison.”  

Representative Foley says Chen’s trial was held on April 18 in the People’s Court of Shigu District in Hengyang City. “The morning the trial begin, Evangelist Chen’s relatives, friends, and supporters followed him to the door of the courtroom but were turned away by authorities.” Eyewitness reports say there were already police cars at the door of the court and nearly 800 people from various agencies providing security. “The entire street where the court is located was blocked off under the pretext of a security drill,” says Representative Foley. 

In the trial which reportedly lasted one hour, prosecutors presented two main arguments against Chen, according to Representative Foley.  

“First, they noted that he had already been administratively detained nine times due to his street evangelism work, for a total of 130 days of detention. Second, they said he disrupted the social order and negatively impacted the lives of residents by organizing evangelism in vegetable markets, intersections, shops, and minority areas, says Representative Foley.  

Representative Foley says that Evangelist Chen Wensheng denied the criminal charges, explaining to the court that he does not organize gatherings or finance them but rather simply evangelizes on the street.  

“He carries a wooden cross displaying the words ‘Glory to our Savior’ and ‘Repent and be saved by faith’, and he hands out gospel tracts, even to the police who arrest him,” says Representative Foley. 

Chinese street evangelist Chen Wensheng with a friend, outside a public security office where he was investigated.

Since Evangelist Chen did not hire a lawyer that day, the court appointed a public defender for him. But Representative Foley says the evangelist mainly spoke to the court on his own behalf. “He told the court that as a person of faith, he was willing to suffer for his faith and be sentenced severely, but as a citizen, he asked the court to conduct a fair trial.” 

Representative Foley says eyewitnesses report that the evangelist was very cheerful and peaceful during the trial and was friendly to the court officials. 

In the June 20 sentencing hearing, Chen was sentenced to a fixed prison term of one year and seven months. The evangelist said he would appeal. 

“Years ago he was a drug addict,” says Representative Foley. When he heard the gospel, he was delivered from his addiction and immediately began preaching on the streets. He’s been a street preacher for more than 15 years. He is a member of a small church, and yet these criminal charges and this recent trial where the building and streets were blocked off testify to the breadth of his impact.” 

Chinese street evangelist Chen on the streets of Hengyang preaching the gospel

Individuals interested in learning about Voice of the Martyrs Korea’s work in partnership with the house church Christians of China can visit / . 

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