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HANGZHOU, Zhejiang, China, Jan. 11, 2017 /Christian Newswire/ -- In the most high-profile religious persecution case since the Cultural Revolution, the former pastor of China's largest state-run megachurch was formally arrested on Saturday by a local public security bureau in China's coastal Zhejiang province.
Photo: Gu Yuese preaching before his arrest
According to informed sources, authorities re-apprehended Gu "Joseph" Yuese sometime before Christmas. On Jan. 7, his family received a notice announcing that he had been arrested on charges of embezzling funds.
As the former chairman of the Hangzhou Municipal China Christian Council, a local branch of the China Christian Council (CCC), which, along with the Three-Self Patriotic Movement (TSPM), comprises China's two government-run Christian organizations, Gu is the highest-profile Christian official to be targeted since the Cultural Revolution. He also was a Member of the Standing Committee of the national China Christian Council before being removed from both of these positions.
On Jan. 18, 2016, he was ousted from his position as senior pastor of Chongyi Church, China's largest Three-Self Church. In a document entitled, "Notice Regarding the Personnel Change of the Senior Pastor of Hangzhou's Chongyi Church," the local TSPM and CCC alleged that replacing Gu would help them better manage official churches, improve their relationship with the provincial government, and better circulate prominent Christians who are in charge of churches.
However, Gu had publicly opposed the forced demolition of church crosses, causing many Christians to suspect a correlation between his advocacy and dismissal.
On Jan. 28, 2016, officials placed Gu under "residential surveillance in a designated location," otherwise known as a "black jail," and held him incommunicado. Two days later, China Aid learned that he had been charged with "embezzling 10 million Yuan [U.S. $1.6 million] in funds." He was released on bail in late March and held under house arrest.
A translation of his arrest notice can be read below.
China Aid exposes abuses, such as those experienced by Gu "Joseph" Yuese, in order to stand in solidarity with persecuted Christians and promote religious freedom.
The Public Security Bureau of the City of Hangzhou
Hangzhou Public Security Bureau arrest notice No.  001
To the family members of Joseph Gu:
Under the approval of the Jianggan District People's Court of Hangzhou, our bureau arrested Gu Yuese, who is suspected of "misappropriation of funds," on Jan. 7, 2017, at 5:00 p.m. He is currently imprisoned at the Hangzhou Municipal Detention Center.
Jan. 7, 2017
Notes: the address of the detention center: No. 36 Yunxi Road (Renhe Section) Renhe County, Yuhang District, Hangzhou
To the family members of the arrested person