A Chinese house church leader has been sentenced to two years in a labor camp for illegally holding religious meetings.
The Associated Press reported that Pastor Shi Enhao, deputy chairman of the Chinese House Church Alliance, was sentenced over the weekend after being arrested June 21 in the eastern city of Suqian.
Authorities say the 55-year-old is guilty of "illegal meetings and illegal organizing of venues for religious meetings."
The Texas-based human rights group China Aid says the charges stem from his work as pastor of a large house church.
"It's kind of anticipated persecution, but not to the degree that he was treated," Bob Fu, president of China Aid, told The Christian Post.
"His lawyer was denied access to visit him, so these are totally violations of Chinese law," he said. "So in that sense it's a surprise to me, but in terms of the persecution they are facing...it's just intensified recently."
"I think he's a part of the target by the Chinese central government to take down because of his leadership role in the Chinese house-church movement," Fu concluded.
The church's several hundred thousand members meet in many different sites around the city.
Police also ordered the church to stop meeting and confiscated the congregation's car and nearly $22,000 in donations.