A message from Hope, celebrating her imprisoned husband’s birthday

Chinese noodles and birthday cake with message for Cheng.
(Photo: Hope / ChinaAid compilation)

(ChinaAid, Midland, TX—October 21, 2021) Shi Minglei (Hope), wife of human rights lawyer Cheng Yuan, shared with ChinaAid how she and her daughter have celebrated Cheng’s birthday for the past three years during his imprisonment. They celebrate with Chinese noodles, a prayer, and a birthday cake with a message: “Cheng… come back home.”

Recently, Hope learned that Chinese Communist Party (CCP) officials sentenced Cheng Yuan, one of the defendants in the NGO [non-government organization] Changsha Funeng case, to serve five years in prison for the fabricated crime of “subversion of State power.” 
Hope recounted:
Hope under house arrest.
(Photo: Hope)

Cheng’s Birthday 2019

After CCP authorities arrested Cheng, they put a black bag on my head, and transported me to an unknown location to interrogate me. Later, they placed me under 24/7 surveillance. Plain-clothes State security officers forbade me from contacting my friends or family members. “If you don’t listen to what we say, we will arrest you like we did your husband,” one monitor taunted.
For that first birthday apart from Cheng, Aliyah asked me to order a “Peppa Pig” birthday for her dad. Inside our apartment decorated with Daddy pig balloons, she and I cautiously celebrated Cheng’s birthday. I had cooked Chinese noodles. We placed candles on top of Cheng’s birthday cake, hugged each other, and sang, “Happy Birthday….”
That birthday felt weird…. When we had celebrated birthdays in China in the past, although we did not host big parties, other family members joined us. That year, CCP authorities held me under house arrest, and forbad me to contact families and friends.
That year, I prayed for Cheng’s release from prison. I prayed that CCP security officers would not arrest me nor any other of our family members. I prayed that Aliyah and I would remain safe and free. 

Cheng’s Birthday 2020

That Saturday, 10 Brothers and Sisters from our church, including our pastor and his wife, helped me buy a cake to celebrate Cheng’s birthday. Our Pastor’s wife and several Sisters in the Church cooked Chinese noodles, spicy fish, and other dishes. We sang songs together, including “Happy Birthday, Cheng.” We prayed together. The words in the icing on the cake read, “Cheng, come back home.” 

We blew out the candles on the cake for Cheng, the man I love.   
Birthday cake with message for Cheng.
(Photo: Hope)

Food prepared and shared at birthday party for Cheng.
(Photo: Hope)

At this time, Cheng’s six-week trial had ended, but we still did not have any information, nor did CCP authorities allow us access to his lawyers. In September, still in China, but not under house arrest, I felt fretful. After plain-clothes security officers had harassed one friend, they took him away and interrogated him for four hours.

Feeling threatened, I worried. With no information about Cheng for one year and three months, I felt more and more and more frustrated with the legal system. I questioned; what plan does God’s Son have for me
Police had shut down Aliyah’s Christian school, so I started home-schooling her. I had not seen Cheng for one year and three months. As many of my friends were afraid to visit or be seen with me, I felt like I had lost most of them. I had been working at my new job for six months without any write-ups or problems, but after police officers harassed my boss, he told me, “You are not qualified.” Although I knew what happened was not right, I felt hopeless.

Hope with Aliyah (her daughter) in China after Cheng’s arrest.
(Photo: Hope)
When my pastor left Cheng’s birthday party, he as well as Brothers and Sisters joined me in prayer. Later, alone with Aliyah in our apartment, I prayed, “Dear God, please give me direction, and lead my future.”
Aliyah prayed, “God, please release Daddy so we can see him….”

Cheng’s Birthday 2021

On Cheng’s birthday in 2021, we had no new information other than that on October 2, CCP authorities had transferred him to a jail half a month earlier. Although we did not know any specifics about Cheng, and CCP authorities forbade us to visit him, that tiny tidbit of news made us feel kind of connected.

Because our families could no longer be together, Aliyah and I did not have a big party. We celebrated Cheng’s birthday with a pumpkin cake, chocolate cookies, and ice cream sandwiches. We ate Chinese noodles I had cooked and sang “Happy Birthday….”

I prayed that our family would get to visit Cheng soon.

Now in America, Aliyah and I are free. I thank God for His preparations for us in everything…. I thank Him for freedom. Recently, I obtained my driver’s license and have a car. Aliyah and I are settling down in our own apartment. Aliyah attends kindergarten and learns English, I am also taking English classes, and preparing to begin work. In China, the government would not allow her to attend a Christian school. Now, if Aliyah and I were in China, and if I home-schooled her there, I would likely be arrested.

Although Chinese National Security officials threatened me, “We 1000% surely promise you that we will arrest if you continue to speak,” I continually spoke up for Cheng and for his two colleagues (also imprisoned). As I also home-schooled Aliyah there, if I had remained in China, I know I would have already been arrested.

Hope and Aliyah in the United States.
(Photo: Hope)

I ask other Brothers and Sisters to pray for Cheng’s release, and for our reunion as a family. I ask them to also pray for Christians, and activists still detained, as well as for their family members and friends.

Hope speaks out for Cheng and two detained co-workers.
(Photo: Hope)

I also ask Christians to pray for six Brothers and Sisters in a church in Suzhou city, Jiangsu Province. CCP officials arrested Wang Jian and five other Christians for their work with Abeka Homeschooling Education.

Each day, I hope and pray that Aliyah, our family members, and I can learn more about Cheng and visit him soon. I pray we can learn more information; that we can communicate with him. I pray for his release and for our reunion as a family.

Cheng with Hope holding Aliyah in China prior to Cheng’s arrest.
(Photo: Hope)

During the past three years, celebrating Cheng’s birthdays without him, my relationship in/with Jesus has helped me the most. My Brothers and Sisters…, our pastor…, and sharing prayer together make me feel alive. I remember Jesus said that we need to love each other.

Each day, I remember and thank God that He is good in all things; that all things He does are good; that He works all things for His children together for good.

Praise to God 
for His Everlasting Mercy
 Oh, give thanks to the Lord, 
for He is good! 
For His mercy endures forever.

                                                                                                                ~ Psalm 118:1 (NKJV)


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