Huang Yizi, a Christian pastor in China, was put on trial on Tuesday in the country’s eastern Zhejiang province for protesting against the authorities over the forced removal of rooftop crosses. Last year, China's provincial authorities had torn down about 400 rooftop crosses, citing building code violations.
Huang, who was detained by police last year for questioning the move at the time, was charged with gathering crowds to wreck social order, Zhang Kai, his lawyer, said, according to the Associated Press (AP). The pastor reportedly said he will plead innocence in the trial, but if found guilty, he could be jailed for upto seven years.
Last year, Huang and a few other congregation members had kept a night vigil to prevent the removal of the cross atop their sanctuary after the rule was implemented. The members were attacked by police officials for doing so, the AP reported. Huang later protested against the move and urged the authorities to put back the toppled crosses. He was reportedly detained by the police after he complained.
Religious rights advocates have argued that Chinese authorities were targeting Christianity by using law as its rise had upset the ruling administration. China, where Web searches for the word Jesus are way more than those for Beijing or President Xi Jinping, is expected to see its Christian population rise to nearly 250 million by 2030, according to an estimate by an influential pastor.
Last August, the country had opened an investigation against a Canadian evangelical Christian couple for allegedly revealing state secrets.