Wuhan pastor & scientist wife imprisoned, violation unclear


Pastor Li Taiyuan and his wife Dr. Zhang Yi have been detained by Wuhan authorities for two years. Their case recently

Dr. Zhang Yi, former professor at Wuhan University (ChinaAid)

went to trial. The verdict is not known to the outside world because the government kept the information under tight control.


According to a church elder who knows Pastor Li Taiyuan, the case mainly involved the export of biological products, relating to their original professions. Specific details are unclear at this time. The elder who once interviewed Pastor Li said it was “too early to draw a conclusion.”


Wuhan Public Security Bureau arrested Professor Li Taiyuan and Dr. Zhang Yi of the College of Life Sciences of Wuhan University in May 2021. The authorities threatened them with capital punishment and heavy sentences.


According to ChinaAid sources, Li and Dr. Zhang were the project leaders of a DNA research project at the university. Authorities accused their scientific research team of traveling to Xinjiang without permission to collect Uyghur biological specimens.  Police further alleged that the couple leaked research data pertaining to Uyghur fertility and genetic mapping.


Some Chinese lawyers appealed for the couple, asking others to pray for them. Both returned from abroad after completing their studies. In addition, they started Shuguang Church in Wuhan and served in the campus fellowship for more than 20 years.


Pastor Li set up a fellowship in the church called “Timothy’s House” comprised of college students. Their vision was committing to Christ and building a missionary China, cultivating future cross-cultural missionary church leaders. In July 2007, the first batch of missionaries, mainly new college graduates, was sent to Urumqi, Xinjiang (Northern Xinjiang). In September 2008, the second batch of missionaries was sent to Kashgar, Xinjiang (Southern Xinjiang).


After the 2008 Sichuan Earthquake, Pastor Li Taiyuan volunteered to manage the China Christian’s Action Love Volunteer Association of the Chengdu disaster area. Under his leadership, they helped to donate tents and other relief supplies to the people in the disaster area.

RAID IN 2009

In May 2009, authorities raided the Shuguang Church’s meeting place at the local Unity Village Road and beat believers. The city’s United Front Work Department and Religious Affairs Bureau was responsible for the attack, along with police, riot police, and unidentified people. At that time, one of them was hospitalized for a severe eye injury.


Shuguang Church has many young believer families doing missionary work in Xinjiang. However, the situation in Xinjiang may continue to tighten at any time, as the persecution of the Xinjiang church continues to increase. At the end of 2020, the police came in late at night and took a young married couple who were preaching in Xinjiang, leaving behind two children under the age of ten.


According to an anonymous Christian, Pastor Li was arrested a year later. “Our first reaction was that it was due to sending missionaries to Xinjiang,” they told ChinaAid. “No one from the church in Wuhan had been arrested yet.” While Pastor Li was in the detention center, many Christians sent him and his wife winter clothes. The couple faired well emotionally, but they were worried about their three college-aged children.


Li Taiyuan and Dr. Zhang Yi have been detained by Wuhan authorities for two years. Pastor Li Taiyuan studied at the Beijing University of Agriculture in his younger days. He was about to graduate in 1989, the same year of the Tiananmen Square Massacre.  In 1992, Li Taiyuan met Zhang Yi and married her before going abroad as a visiting scholar at the Department of Plant Pathology of Rutgers University in the United States.


After Li Taiyuan arrived in the United States, he began to come in touch with the gospel, but he firmly believed in the theory of evolution and firmly resisted the facts about the existence of God and the creation of heaven and earth. In 1993, Zhang Yi came to the United States. Although they were invited to attend a church and participated in an evangelistic meeting, the two still resisted the faith together. At that time, Li Taiyuan and Zhang Yi’s relationship was going through a rough patch and even had disputes with their friends. But after a few limited contacts with the church, the testimonies of Christians deeply influenced Li Taiyuan.


Li would later reflect on this time in his life:

“God made us realize that we were heartless, selfish, and hypocritical people. In the midst of a series of conflicts, I confessed that I am a sinner. Both of us were filled with trauma, resentment, and bitterness in our hearts. Sometimes Zhang Yi would be so angry that she would leave home, and I would harden my heart and was not willing to go [look for her. I] saw the situation and its terrible consequences, but was powerless to extricate myself from it”


Zhang Yi remembered that her mother transformed her life and her family after she became a Christian, so she decided to go to church. Li ended up joining her eventually, but their quarrels continued. “God’s mercy and love still surrounded,” Li recounted. “I finally decided to try to accept God’s salvation. During the Christmas gathering in 1993, Pastor Xu Zongshi called, and I raised my hands in response. At midnight on December 31, 1993, Zhang Yi and I raised our hands and decided, we prayed together to accept the Lord Jesus as our Savior.”


Soon after, Li Taiyuan decided to pursue a master’s degree at the Evangelical Missionary and Seminary International in New Jersey.


Zhang Yi received her joint Ph.D. from Rutgers State University of New Jersey and the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey in 2000. In July 2000, she taught at Wuhan University for ten years. Since then, she has presided over critical projects of the National Natural Science Foundation of China.


In July 2010, Dr. Zhang Yi resigned from Wuhan University and founded Appreciate The Beauty of Life and Technology Inc.. The team is first-class in international high-tech innovative research and development. Their genome regulation and human health laboratory developed a number of new technologies related to high-throughput sequencing and construction databases.

Dr. Zhang Yi’s the honorary certificate of “100 Outstanding Female Scientific and Technological Innovation Talents in Hubei Province.”

Photo: Dr. Zhang Yi’s honorary certificate of “100 Outstanding Female Scientific and Technological Innovation Talents in Hubei Province.” (Courtesy of Appreciate the Beauty of Life and Technology Inc.)


On December 18, 2015, Dr. Zhang’s company visited Xinjiang to discuss and communicate with personnel of the Cantaloupe Research Center (Xinjiang Academy of Agricultural Sciences) and made a topical academic report.


Stay tuned for more updates from ChinaAid regarding Pastor Li Taiyuan and Dr. Zhang Yi. May God break their chains and bless them with spiritual freedom in imprisonment.

~ Gao Zhensai, Special Correspondent of ChinaAid