CHINA AID/ GETTY
Yang Hua has been jailed for two and a half years for "divulging state secrets"
Yang Hua was sentenced by a court in China’s central Guizhou province weeks after his lawyers accused the prosecution of torturing him while he was held in custody ahead of the trial.
The vicar was arrested in December 2015 accused of “divulging state secrets” during a raid on Huoshi Church when he tried to stop police from confiscating a hard drive.
Ahead of the trial, his lawyers said Hua had received death threats and contracted liver disease.
This is nothing but purely barbaric religious persecution
China Aid president Bob Fu
They accused the government-appointed prosecution of torturing Hua.
Christian charities have called on Barack Obama and Donald Trump to intervene.
Bob Fu, president and of advocacy charity China Aid, said: “This is nothing but purely barbaric religious persecution.
Yang Hua tried to stop police from confiscating a hard drive
“We urge President Obama and President-elect Trump to unequivocally condemn this brutal act.”
The sentence comes months after Hua’s lawyers Chen Jiangang and Zhao Yonglin told China Aid: “Prosecutors visited him twice, applied pressure to his feet, and repeatedly threatened to kill him and harm his family members if he failed to confess his supposed crimes.”
Hua’s congregation has been forced to disband as Chinese authorities crack down on Christians.
As the Communist Party tightens its grip on religion, underground churches have been set up
The Chinese Communist Party released a new set of religious restrictions last year
The Chinese Communist Party released a new set of religious restrictions last year including travel sanctions, suppressing house churches and increased surveillance.
The revised Draft of Regulations on Religious Affairs placed further restrictions on Christians "organising citizens to attend religious training, conferences and activities abroad"; "preaching, organising religious activities, and establishing religious institutions or religious sites at schools" and "providing religious services through the internet”.
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Armed police officers and soldiers of a frontier inspection station drill in the snow on December 21, 2016 in Heihe, Heilongjiang Province of China
It comes as a woman was jailed for three years for holding a bible study in the western Xinjiang region of the country.
Ma Huichao was sentenced after her bible study group threatened to “disturb public order”.
China Aid said the woman was taken into custody alongside four other Christians after communist party officials claimed the group was meeting without government approval.