Last week, as I was traveling between civil diplomacy meetings in Taiwan on the topic of religious freedom and rule of law in China, I heard Christmas music coming from the streets and realized that I needed to write a brief report on China Aid’s 2014 accomplishments to fulfill its mission through your generous partnership.
In essence, China Aid is a bridge for truth between oppressed societies and the free world. Due to the media censorship in China and its relentless overseas propaganda campaign coupled with the failure of the western media to report on ongoing human rights abuses, true information on persecuted communities does not reach the persecuted people nor the free world. Indeed, only the truth can set us free. Here is a recent note from a supporter: “I enjoy your newsletter—I enjoy hearing what is happening in China. The difference between here and there is so stark. To think so many here in America are racing toward dictatorship—because they are so uninformed or because they are Christians but don’t vote. I pray your newsletter reaches the young and old here. Thank you so much.”
In 2014, China Aid issued more than 1,700 exclusive reports and stories about human rights abuses and religious persecution in China. Certainly, our efforts are a bridge for mutual encouragement. Not only does China Aid assist in channeling material support from you to prisoners of conscience and their family members, but we also highlight stories of perseverance and faithfulness from the persecuted in China, thereby encouraging your faith. Take for example a letter from a young man in China: “Thank you for your efforts bringing Christ to China. As a young man searching for purpose in a world devoid of morality, your ministry is a source of hope. Please accept my humble offering.”
In 2014, China Aid supported more than 100 human rights lawyers’ who provided legal aid for victims of religious freedom and human rights defenders from 20 provinces, and sponsored the publishing of the only underground church magazine, which is distributed among hundreds of thousands of persecuted communities throughout China.
In equipping leaders in 2014, China Aid facilitated rule of law training sessions for more than 6,000 Chinese pastors, NGO leaders, and community leaders. The training sessions aimed to educate and empower leaders to understand and defend their rights under Chinese law governing religious practice and expression.
As China Aid prepares for the coming year, it is important to note that the human rights situation worsened in 2014, with more human rights defenders and religious freedom advocates arrested in the past two years than in the previous ten years combined. In fact, more than 425 churches, most of which were government-sanctioned Protestant and Catholic churches, were either destroyed or had their crosses forcefully removed. Unfortunately, we can expect more persecution to occur in 2015, and therefore the need for exposing, encouraging, and equipping is more vital than ever. For example, in the summer of 2014, China Aid organized a unique training on equipping faith leaders on the biblical mandate to defend their right to religious freedom in which we expected 300 Christian leaders to attend. Unexpectedly, more than 400 leaders arrived at the training site located at an undisclosed location in China. Unfortunately, due to the facility’s limited capacity, we regrettably had to turn away nearly 100 faith leaders. As a result, China Aid will be organizing a historic training for more than 1,000 faith leaders in 2015.
China Aid and, most importantly, persecuted communities in China remain extremely grateful for your faithful partnership, which makes this mission to expose abuses and encourage and equip leaders possible.
Merry Christmas to all of you, and Happy New Year!
China Aid, Taiwanese leaders meet in Taiwan
|From left: Yong Senhong, Kody Kness, Taiwan Legislator and
Member of the Human Rights Caucus, Chen Shei-Saint, and
China Aid’s founder and president, Bob Fu, and vice president, Kody Kness, traveled to Taiwan in early December to build partnerships to promote religious freedom and rule of law in China.
Fu and Kness met with Members of the Taiwan Legislative Yuan, including the chairwoman of the human rights caucus, the minority leader, and the chairman of the defense and foreign affairs committee to encourage them to create an international religious freedom alliance, modeled after the U.S. Congressional International Religious Freedom Caucus, in which Taiwanese legislators would work together to promote religious freedom in China and throughout the Asia region.
Similar meetings were held with leaders of Taiwan’s non-governmental organization (NGO) community to discuss an international religious freedom roundtable for NGOs in Taiwan to coordinate efforts in advocating for religious freedom in China and throughout the region. China Aid will partner with Yang Senhong, the president of the Taiwanese NGO Taiwan Association for China Human Rights to facilitate these efforts.
Fu and Kness also met with the leaders of several churches in Taiwan to discuss their role in supporting Chinese citizens who are persecuted for their faith. A number of churches in Taiwan previously experienced severe religious and political persecution in the decades before Taiwan became a democracy. Fu and Kness encouraged the Taiwanese religious leaders to continue to support religious freedom and assist Chinese citizens who face persecution and harassment by the Chinese government.
While in Taiwan, Fu and Kness also attended an international conference at Tunghai University on religious freedom and the rise of Christianity in Chinese societies, which was attended by scholars from around the world, including Yang Fenggang, the director of Purdue University’s Center on Religion and Chinese Society. The conference brought together Chinese scholars, religious leaders, and religious freedom advocates who convened to discuss a strategy to support the growth of Christianity in China and throughout Asia.
China Aid will continued to build partnerships with Taiwanese universities, faith leaders, NGOs and current and former Taiwanese government officials to promote religious freedom and rule of law in China.
426 Zhejiang churches persecuted
In early December, China Aid received an updated list of churches in China’s coastal Zhejiang province that have experienced persecution in the form of demolitions, cross removals, and other threats since a province-wide persecution campaign targeting religious buildings began in February 2014.
The number of churches with reported persecution reached 426, a number that is almost double that of our last update in August 2014. In addition to the demolitions and cross removals, some churches were converted into senior centers while others received verbal and written threats. Still others were banned from gathering or conducting worship services. The wide-spread persecution did not just affect underground or Protestant churches but reached government-sanctioned and both Protestant and Catholic churches.
Many churches were able to stave off physical threats to their church buildings and crosses for extended periods of time, commonly reaching 100 days. However, even those churches eventually fell victim to the Chinese Communist government’s goal of demolition and cross removal.
Pastor’s daughter released from black jail
|Zhang “Shanshan” Lingxin captured
this photo of her “black jail” cell before
her phone was confiscated by security
The daughter of imprisoned China 18 member Pastor Zhang Shaojie, Zhang “Shanshan” Lingxin, was released from a black jail on Nov. 14, two days before the one-year anniversary of her father’s detention, after having been abducted by Nanle County officials on Nov. 5 during a trip to her family’s store. Additionally, authorities showed up at the Zhang home on Nov. 14 in an attempt to force the family to vacate their home as ordered in an October-notice.
“On Nov. 5, I went to my aunt [Zhang Cuijian’s] store to get a padded, cotton coat to take to my other aunt, Zhang Cuijuan, who is at the detention center,” Shanshan told China Aid. “On my way back, three vehicles without license plates surrounded me. There were more than 20 people. They picked me up and threw me in a vehicle. I shouted for my aunt, and she came out and tried to rescue me, but they pushed me down and took me away.
“They hit my hands [when I used them to cover my head], pried them apart, and wouldn’t let me move. Three men hit my face and head. They also kicked me. Then, they took me to the Nanle County Party Committee guest house, where the rooms had been soundproofed. They locked me up there. After a while, my aunt Zhang Cuijian and Fan Ruizhen, [the woman leading the church during my father’s detention], came. We asked them why we were here. They said, ‘To study,’ which meant they talked with us and let us play poker. For each meal, they asked us what we would like to eat and drink so they could go buy those things for us. For 24 hours a day, there were around 15-20 people who watched over us in shifts. They released us this morning after 9 a.m.,” Shanshan said on Nov. 14.
“Yesterday, they made us copy the regulations on religious affairs and the regulations on petitions,” Shanshan said. “They told us that we should pay attention to [these regulations] when we petition higher authorities.” Shanshan also said that the government employees at the house confiscated the women’s cell phones and that there were surveillance cameras everywhere, taking video and audio recordings.
After her release, Shanshan, along with her mother and aunt Zhang Cuixia, were allowed to visit her father in prison for 30 minutes. “He was speechless [after learning on my kidnapping] and said that the authorities are totally devoid of respect for the law. He said that on [Nov. 13], people from the court went to see him and asked him to sign an evaluation form, [giving permission] to auction his house and my sister’s vehicle. He didn’t sign.”
On the morning of Nov. 14, before Shanshan made her way home after being released, Nanle County government employees went to the Zhang family’s home to attempt to force the family to move out of the home so it could be auctioned as was warned in a public notice the family discovered on Oct. 26. The notice stated that the family would be forced to leave the home in order to be auctioned as Pastor Zhang had failed to pay 700,000 Yuan (U.S. $114,000) in restitution for the charge of fraud.
“They wanted to sell my house for 550,000 Yuan (U.S. $89,850) and sell the car for 49,000 Yuan (U.S. $8,000). They wanted to enter my house, and I wouldn’t let them in. I held some gasoline in one hand and held a lighter in the other. Then, they backed away,” Mei Xian, Zhang Shaojie’s mother, said. It is common practice for Chinese citizens, as a last resort, to threaten to kill themselves in order to get local authorities to cease their harassment.
Sadly, just two days later the family faced the one-year anniversary of Pastor Zhang’s apprehension as he was taken into custody on Nov. 16, 2013, and charged with “gathering a crowd to disrupt public order” and fraud, a charge which is largely believed to be fabricated, especially because the alleged victim has been held in a black jail since November 2013. Pastor Zhang was sentenced to 12 years in prison on July 4, 2014. His lawyers are currently petitioning for his release.
China 18 member Yang Rongli in good health; Linfen Church fully functioning
Linfen Church reported in November that its imprisoned leader Yang Rongli is in good health and that the church is functioning.
Yang, who is a member of China Aid’s China 18 campaign, led Linfen Church with her husband Wang Xiaoguang until they were arrested in 2009 for “gathering a mob to disturb public order.” Yang and Wang were sentenced to seven and three years, respectively, and faced fines totaling 40,000 Yuan (U.S. $6,500).
When a China Aid reporter contacted Linfen Church last week, a church member said that Yang is in good health and is expected to be released in less than two years. The church member also said that the church’s ministries, including missions to different parts of China that are led by Yang’s brother, are going strong.
Meanwhile, Stefanus Alliance International, a Norweigian human rights organization that frequently hosts letter-writing campaigns, recently started a campaign for Yang Rongli. The letter, an excerpt of which is below, will be delivered to Rongli after being signed by thousands.
I am writing to let you know that many people around the world are praying for you this Christmas. You are not forgotten!
We pray for health for your body and strength for your spirit. May the Lord comfort you and fill your heart with peace and hope. May His love carry you each day and give you the strength you need.
China Aid is thankful for its supporters and partners that make its ministry possible. As China Aid comes to the end of the year, our supporters ask about assisting China Aid to expose the abuses, encourage the abused, and equip those who are standing for religious freedom and human rights. To make a gift you may visit www.ChinaAid.org and click on the donation tab, or you may mail a gift to China Aid, P.O. Box 8513, Midland, TX 79708. If you want to discuss making a gift of appreciated property or another method of giving, please contact us at (432) 689-6985. Thank you for your partnership.