China Aid Association
(Midland, Tex–Jan. 06, 2011) The year 2010 in China was like a melodrama: the first half was uneventful, but in the second half, the stage was filled with one explosive scene after another. The impact to China and the world of the selection of Liu Xiaobo as the first Chinese citizen to win a Nobel Prize was felt from October all the way to the end of the year. Almost at exactly the same time, 200 Chinese church delegates who had been invited to attend the massive worldwide evangelistic gathering—the Lausanne Congress on World Evangelism (Oct. 16-25)—were barred by the government from leaving the country; more “turning the world upside down.” In December, with only an empty chair to represent the absent Liu Xiaobo and his family, the Norwegian Nobel Committee held a solemn award ceremony in Oslo, Norway; that same month, the Chinese government launched the outrageous “Operation Deterrence” campaign aimed at suppressing house churches.
In the past year, the Chinese church throughout the entire country continued to be the target of many acts of persecution by the Chinese Communist government because it held firm to the principles of the faith. Reflecting on the scope, impact, number of people involved and seriousness of the circumstances of the persecution of the past year, ChinaAid Association has selected the following as 2010’s Top 10 Persecution Cases (listed in reverse chronological order). They involved church leaders, human rights lawyers, house churches, Three-Self Patriotic Movement churches, Catholic churches, and minority groups, and they extended from the urban areas to the countryside, from China’s largest municipalities directly under central government control to the remote autonomous areas of mostly minority population, reflecting the year’s overall atmosphere of persecution and the dynamic life of the church.
1. The persecution of the Beijing Shengshan Church & Dr. Fan Yafeng
Dr. Fan Yafeng, the founder and head of Christian Human Rights Lawyers of China and the Beijing Shengshan Church and Shengshan Culture Research Institute, has been the target of serious persecution by the Beijing government since October 2010. On Oct. 12, officers from the Shuangyushu police station violently seized Dr. Fan because he had given an interview to the American radio station National Public Radio (NPR) about the Chinese delegation to the Lausanne Congress. That was the beginning of the Beijing government’s systematic persecution of Dr. Fan. On Oct. 20 and 30, Dr. Fan was seized twice and brought to the local police station for questioning and released the same day. On Oct. 23, police searched Dr. Fan’s home. On Nov. 1, police began to enforce a house arrest order. On Nov. 7, because he insisted on holding a Sunday worship service in his home, Dr. Fan was again taken in for questioning. On Nov. 24, Dr. Fan, his wife, and their three-year-old son were all hauled into the police station for interrogations that lasted into the early morning hours before they were returned home, where they discovered that their apartment had been entered into in their absence and their computer tampered with. On the morning of Dec. 9, Dr. Fan was taken away by police and held for nine days before he was returned home to house arrest. On Dec. 18, some Christian lawyer friends went to visit Dr. Fan and were violently stopped by police, who took three of them into custody for questioning before releasing them. On Dec. 23, law professor Teng Biao and several other people going to visit Dr. Fan’s mother were beaten by police and hauled off to the local police station. To date, Dr. Fan remains under house arrest, with his landline phone and Internet connection cut. Life is difficult and normal life impossible.
2. The demolition of the Three-Self church building in the city of Yancheng, Jiangsu province
Since 2006, the Tinghu district Chengnan Three-Self Patriotic Movement Church in the city of Yancheng, coastal Jiangsu province, has been in a long-running dispute with the government because they were being threatened with eviction. On June 6, 2010, Yancheng law enforcement personnel disrupted a Sunday worship service and illegally beat up believers. That same month, the authorities handed down an eviction notice. On June 13, the director of the Chinese House Church Alliance, Pastor Zhang Mingxuan, and his wife were on their way to visit the Chengnan church when they were intercepted by police and put under house arrest for two days before being released. On the afternoon of Friday Nov. 19, the church building was forcibly demolished, reduced to nothing but flat ground. After witnessing the demolition of his church and the beating of some church members, a grieved Pastor Ding Jianling made this appeal, “Please pray for us, that they may repent, that they may be pardoned. To abuse power and to occupy (our property) by force in broad daylight! They know the law and yet they are the lawbreakers. The government owes us an explanation.”
3. The persecution of the Three-Self church in the city of Jinan, Shandong province
The Changchunli Three-Self Church in the city of Jinan, coastal Shandong province, has been persecuted since 2008. In June 2009, the Jinan Religious Affairs Bureau and the “two committees,” that is, the Three-Self Patriotic Association and the China Christian Council, started to put pressure on the Changchunli Three-Self Church, issuing documents from the “two committees” to forcibly remove Pastor Wang Sanyuan from his post and to stop the church from holding meetings. Pastor Wang and the church’s more than 800 members were extremely displeased. On Sept. 23, 2010, more than 200 people dressed in police uniforms and wearing steel helmets who identified themselves as young police officers burst into the tents that some Changchunli church believers were living in on the construction site of the Wanda Plaza, which was formerly the site of the Changchunli church building before it was razed by the authorities, and started beating people up. At least 27 believers were injured, including one senior citizen who lost the sight in his left eye and 16 women and senior citizens who were also hurt. That same afternoon, more than 300 believers went to city hall to protest and petition. On Oct. 16, the Changchunli Church’s administrative committee formally filed a civil suit with the Jinan City Middle District People’s Court against the Jinan Three-Self Patriotic Association and Christian Council and against the Jinan Urban Renewal Finance Center. In the afternoon of Oct. 29, the court’s filing department telephoned the Changchunli Church’s administrative committee to inform them that the court would not hear the case. In the two years since then, the Changchunli Church has petitioned as many as 70 times, following all the legally required procedures, but to no effect whatsoever.
4. The barring of the Lausanne delegates from leaving the country
The Third Lausanne Congress on Global Evangelization was held from Oct. 16 to Oct. 26, 2010, in Cape Town, South Africa. Some 4,000 church leaders from more than 200 countries and regions attended the congress. The Chinese government, however, used violent methods to crack down relentlessly on the 200 Chinese house church representatives invited to the congress and used all sorts of methods to prevent them from going to attend the conference. Starting in September, Uygher Christian representatives in Xinjiang, delegates in Inner Mongolia and Han Chinese delegates arriving in Beijing were all targeted by the government for “talks” and threats; confronted at their homes or at the airport and not allowed to leave; and beaten and had their passports confiscated. In some cases, even family members were targeted. The main victims of this nationwide persecution were leaders of house churches, leading to an escalation of the conflict between the house churches and the government that is bound to have a long-lasting and profound impact on church-state relations in China. (Picture: Notice issued to Mr. Liu Jintao on Oct. 9, 2010 by the Public Security Bureau of Baotou, Inner Mongolia, informing him that he was being administratively sentenced to 15-days detention for trying to attend the Lausanne Congress.)
5. Demolition of the Taishan Church meeting hall in Yuhuai county, Taizhou city, Jiangsu province
Taishan Christian Church in Qinggang town, Yuhuai county, Taizhou city, Jiangsu province endured two forced demolitions in a single month. On Aug. 30, 2010, the local government sent nearly 300 police officers and migrant workers to raze the church’s Mount of Prayer activities hall. Altogether six rooms were demolished as more than 20 believers negotiated fruitlessly with the town government. On Sept. 21, the local government mobilized again, sending 200 police and demolition workers to tear down the structure the church members had put up following the previous demolition, this time totally leveling the structure. In the face of this destruction, the Christian believers who were at the site kept reciting Bible passages and singing hymns until the police forcibly drove them away. The church’s pastor Zhu Zugen said, “…the local Yuhuai county government came again and completely leveled our Mount of Prayer building. Today, the ones who showed up were probably our Qinggang town mayor and vice mayor as well as the chief of the local police station. Last time, it was to tear down our outer wall, today it was to completely level us to the ground.”
6. The persecution of Catholic churches
I. The demolition of the Dongsheng District Catholic Church in Erdos, Inner Mongolia: In the early morning hours of June 8, 2010, the clamor of machines and the sounds of a noisy crowd woke Father Gao’en and Catholic Committee Director Yang Yizhi of the Dongsheng District Catholic Church in the city of Erdos, in Inner Mongolia. More than 100 police and unidentified people were in the process of tearing down the church. In their shock and anger, they charged in and tried to stop this outrageous act of forced demolition. The vicious police blindfolded and handcuffed them and forcibly led them away. When the local Catholic residents heard the news and raced to the scene, all they saw was the cathedral’s altar table and the five-meter (16.5-foot) tall cross destroyed and cast aside. The whereabouts and fate of Father Gao and Yang were unknown. Some Catholic believers insisted on setting up a tent at the site of their demolished church in order to protect the church’s land. They noticed that police vehicles were parked nearby and police were on patrol, and that they were under police surveillance. The church that was forcibly demolished by the authorities was the only Catholic cathedral in the city of Erdos, in the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, and was officially registered with the government in May 2009 as a Three-Self Catholic Church. It has about 1000 parishioners.
II. Beijing’s illegal ordination challenges the authority of the Vatican: After four years of relatively friendly relations with the Vatican, the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association and the Chinese Catholic Bishops College on Nov. 20, 2010 held an ordination ceremony in Chengde, Hebei province in contravention of the Vatican’s wishes, promoting Father Joseph Guo Jincai, the deputy secretary general of the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association, to bishop. Bishops who disagreed with the move were forced to attend the ordination. Both before and after the ordination, the Vatican released statements pointing out that this was an illegal ordination. On Nov. 25, at a regular Foreign Ministry news briefing, spokesman Hong Lei accused the Vatican of interfering with the independence and religious freedom of the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association. From Dec. 7 to Dec. 9, Beijing held another major event, the National Congress of Catholic Representatives. On Dec. 17, the Vatican released a statement forcefully condemning the Chinese government for religious freedom and human rights violations and said the convening of the National Congress of Catholic Representatives was an “unacceptable and hostile act.” Pope Benedict XVI in his Christmas address specifically referred to this dispute. He said, “May the birth of the Savior strengthen the spirit of faith, patience and courage of the faithful of the Church in mainland China, that they may not lose heart through the limitations imposed on their freedom of religion and conscience but, persevering in fidelity to Christ and his Church, may keep alive the flame of hope.”
7. The persecution of Liangren Church in Guangzhou
On the morning of May 2, Liangren Church in Guangzhou was locked out of its usual meeting place, forcing the church to hold its worship service outside the front doors of its building. The Guangzhou Public Security Bureau had caused the church’s landlord, the Guangdong Construction Machinery Factory, to chain and padlock the front doors of the church meeting place and bar church attendees from the premises. A week later, on May 9, Pastor E Wangdao was criminally detained and kept in custody until June 13, when he was released on bail and returned home, where he continued to pastor his church. Liangren Church has been persecuted by the Guangzhou authorities from June 2004 until Sept. 26, 2010, during which time it has been forced to move its meeting site 40 times.
8. Police in Yucheng, Henan province fine Christians as a way to amass wealth
Hoping to receive bribes, police in Yucheng county, Shangqiu city, Henan province, detained five local Christians. The family of one of them paid several thousand yuan (hundreds of dollars) to win her release, but the other four believers – Gao Jianli, Hua Yulan, Liu Yunhua and Zheng Yumei – insisted on maintaining a “Jesus is the Lord” attitude and refused to give any bribes to the police. The result was that after being in custody for 15 days, they were sentenced to one year re-education-through-labor (an extra-judicial sentence that is passed by Chinese police, not the courts). The two women, Hua Yulan and Zheng Yumei, are incarcerated in the Zhengzhou Re-Education-Through-Labor Facility, and Gao Jianli and Liu Yunhua are at the Xuchang Re-Education-Through-Labor Facility. One police officer privately told them, “During the 2008 Sichuan earthquake, you donated 5000 yuan (US$755). It would seem then that you have quite a large organization!”
9. The persecution case of Christian human rights lawyer Gao Zhisheng
Christian human rights lawyer Gao Zhisheng, who had represented Falungong victims in persecution cases, was taken away by police from his home in Beijing on Feb. 4, 2009. For more than a year, his whereabouts were unknown. During his disappearance, he was tortured. On March 27, 2010, he suddenly reappeared, though still monitored by China’s secret police. But on April 20, he disappeared again, and to date, there still is no word of his fate. Gao was twice nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, in 2008 and 2010, and is highly respected internationally. In early 2009, with ChinaAid’s help, Gao’s wife and daughter were able to escape to the United States. ChinaAid founder and president Pastor Bob Fu, when he was in Oslo, Norway, on Dec. 10 to attend the Nobel Peace Prize award ceremony, personally went to the Chinese Embassy to deliver a petition with 150,000 signatures calling for Gao’s release. That same day, ChinaAid organized simultaneous deliveries of the same petition to Chinese embassies and consulates in 14 countries and cities around the world.
10. The persecution case of Xinjiang Uyghur Christian Alimujiang
Mr. Alimujiang, the leader of a house church in south Xinjiang’s Kashgar region was arrested on Jan. 12, 2008. He was illegally detained beyond the legally allowed time period, and was sentenced on Aug. 8, 2009 in a secret sentencing hearing by the Kashgar Intermediate People’s Court to a 15-year jail term. Alimujiang did not accept the sentence and the famous Christian human rights lawyer Li Baiguang appealed the sentence on his behalf. On March 16, 2010, the Xinjiang Autonomous Region Higher People’s Court upheld the lower court’s ruling: Alimujiang was guilty of “revealing state secrets to foreigners” (with sentencing appropriate to a “top secret” level crime), given a sentence of 15 years and deprived of his political rights for five years. In the past three years, his wife, two young children and his mother have never given up their efforts on his behalf. ChinaAid Association has also made great efforts to win his release, but has seen no progress whatsoever.
These top 10 persecution cases can only reflect the basic situation of the persecution inflicted on the Chinese church throughout the country. Due to government control of the free flow of information, we believe there are many other cases of persecution that have not been reported and many cases of severe persecution that are unknown to the outside world.
The Lausanne congress, Dr. Fan’s persecution and the illegal ordination of Father Guo markedly demonstrate that the swift spread of the deepening of Christianity throughout all levels of society in China and the close cooperative relationship with the worldwide church abroad has triggered great anxiety in the Chinese government and resulted in a determination to carry out a comprehensive crackdown. This tension and conflict in church-state relations between an atheist ruling power and a church with Christ at its head will only increase and intensify in the new year. But, just as has happened in many other countries over the course of history, any force or political authority that attempts to suppress the growth of the pure church in China is doomed to all-out failure and ignominy—this is nothing but a question of time.
In the second half of the 20th century, the revivification of religion around the globe astonished the entire world to no end. Entering the 21st century, it will be just as the noted Christian commentator David Aikman had predicted in his 2003 book Jesus in Beijing: the unstoppable growth of Christianity in China will surely change the global balance of power and establish a new order of sustainable and peaceful international relations.
The words that Jesus Christ spoke more than 2000 years ago are still true today: “I have come to bring fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled!” (Luke 12:49)
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