China Aid Association
(Ridderkerk, The Netherlands – Dec. 2, 2011) Through presentations at a human rights forum and media interviews, a ChinaAid delegation was able on Thursday to draw nationwide attention in The Netherlands to the growing problem of the persecution of the church in China.
ChinaAid founder and president Bob Fu was one of four speakers from ChinaAid at an afternoon forum on “The Situation of Christians in China” in Ridderkerk, the Netherlands. The ChinaAid delegation had just spoken at a seminar on Wednesday at the European Parliament.
The Thursday event in The Netherlands was attended by about 50 people from more than 30 NGOs, media organizations and the European Parliament.
(Photo: Edwin Baelde of the Stichting de Ondergrondse Kerk [SDOK, the Association of the Underground Church] opens the forum.)
After a welcome by Edwin Baelde of the Stichting de Ondergrondse Kerk (SDOK, the Association of the Underground Church), the Dutch branch of the worldwide mission organization International Christian Association, Fu (photo below) reported on the overall human rights situation in China over the past 11 months, including detailed facts and figures based on ChinaAid’s research about Christian persecution.
Following Fu’s remarks, “James” Dajun Zhang, formerly a researcher at the Transition Institute think tank and deacon at the Beijing Zion house church; Kathy Lu, a former member of Beijing Shouwang Church; and Pastor “John,” a former Chinese house church pastor, reported in detail about and provided analysis of the persecution of Chinese house churches. The case of Shouwang Church was a focus of their discussions.
Pastor “John” used compelling statistics to warn foreigners not to be easily fooled on the issue of religious freedom in China by scenes of overflowing turnout at the government-run Three-Self churches. He pointed out that in 1949, when Beijing’s population was 2 million, there were 200 churches in the capital. But now, Beijing’s population is 18 million, yet there are only 18 churches, or an average of one church for every 1 million persons. This is a disturbing reality and speaks volumes about the so-called “religious freedom” that Chinese citizens can enjoy.
Finally, Dr. Bastiaan Belder (photo at right)closed the forum by thanking ChinaAid for its accurate and reliable reporting and its penetrating analysis. He jokingly said that whenever he has to make a report to the European Union on the subject of human rights in China, he just goes to the ChinaAid website to take excerpts from its reports and use its statistics. He closed by saying that he was fully committed to supporting China’s persecuted church, and would redouble his efforts through the EU and the Dutch government to do more.
After the forum, representatives of the NGOs who attended the event said the reports had opened their eyes and thanked the speakers, and national and local Dutch television interviewed the ChinaAid delegation.
The full text of Pastor Bob Fu’s report is below. Click here for the PDF of the report.
In the first 11 months of 2011, the deterioration of human rights, freedom of religion and the rule of law in China reached the lowest level since the 1989 Tiananmen Square pro-democracy movement. Furthermore, this is the fourth consecutive year of such deterioration since the Olympic Games were held in Beijing in 2008. In this report to the Human Rights Forum, China Aid Association will use material and information it has gathered (most of it from first-hand sources) in its efforts to promote religious freedom, human rights and the rule of law to summarize the situation and to make necessary recommendations for how to work together to impact and advance China’s efforts to improve in these areas.
I. Overview of the Political Background in China in 2011: Deterioration of Human Rights, Retreat of the Rule of Law
The past nine years that Hu Jintao has been in power have represented, to a certain extent, a restoration of the ultra-leftist political line of Mao Zedong. This was especially true during the 2008 Olympic Games, which could be said to have launched a mini-Cultural Revolution persecuting different ideologies. That a large number of well-known intellectuals and even artists were persecuted this year fully illustrates this point. Furthermore, Chongqing Mayor Bo Xilai, one of China’s princelings, has since 2009 implemented a vigorous “sing red, strike black” campaign [sing red = sing patriotic songs; strike black = crack down on crime], which is really just a copy of Mao’s Three-anti and Five-anti Campaigns of the early 1950s to stamp out capitalism. For example, the owner of the Chongqing Junfeng Group, Chongqing private entrepreneur Li Jun, was imprisoned by Bo on Dec. 4, 2009 and tortured. Overnight, 4 billion yuan (more than US$ 627 million/more than 474 million Euros) worth of assets were confiscated. Li was not released until March 5, 2010. More than 20 relatives and friends were implicated and also arrested. His wife, Luo Cong, was not released until October 22, 2011 at the end of her sentence. These two replications of the most extreme political ideologies of Communism both reached their climax this year, resulting in a serious setback in the already slow development of the rule of law and the limited expression of cultural freedom in China.
Based on incomplete statistics, we know that about 100 lawyers, rights activists and dissidents have been “disappeared,” tortured, imprisoned and even sentenced to prison terms this year. This was not solely the result of this spring’s Arab “Jasmine Revolution”: as early as September 2010, the government had already begun a comprehensive suppression of house churches in connection with the Lausanne Congress on World Evangelization. China’s 200 house church representatives to Lausanne were all persecuted to varying degrees, and all were barred from leaving the country and were unable to attend the conference. Then in October, after dissident Liu Xiaobo was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, nearly 200 rights activists, political activists and well-known intellectuals were taken into custody, beaten, placed under house arrest, barred from leaving the country or subjected to other kinds of suppression. Then in response to the Jasmine Revolution, the government ratcheted up its crackdown on dissent. From February to July, more than 1,000 rights activists and dissidents across the country were “invited to drink tea and chat” with or were threatened by police or Domestic Security Protection agents.
The suppression of rights defense lawyers began in December 2010, when Christian constitutional law scholar Fan Yafeng was seized, imprisoned and tortured. Upon his release, he was put under house arrest, where he remains to this day. Thereafter, this model of disappearance, torture and house arrest that was first used on Gao Zhisheng and Chen Guangcheng, coupled with the crackdown during the Jasmine Revolution period, was widely applied to other Christians and rights activists and dissidents.
In addition to the above-mentioned cases showing the deterioration of the rule of law, the October 29 adoption of an amendment to the Resident Identity Card Law provides additional legal basis for this deterioration. It was perhaps because the government felt deeply encumbered by a number of legal provisions while engaged in its widespread suppression in the past year of house churches, political activists and dissidents that the Resident Identity Card Law was amended to say, “When citizens apply for, change or register their ID cards, they should be fingerprinted.” This measure broadens the scope of the police’s ability to investigate and expose citizens’ private affairs. Furthermore, the amendments to Articles 38 and 39 of the Criminal Procedure Law say that, in the case of “crimes that endanger national security and terror crimes,” subpoenas can be indefinitely extended and notification of family and relatives of an arrest or house arrest can be indefinitely delayed. This provides sufficient legal grounds for secret detentions and imprisonments. The well-known dissident Hu Jia considers these three amendments to be “KGB provisions.”
Although the rule of law has deteriorated and China already is a police state, and despite the complete repression in China of the legal defense movement started by the house church Christian and constitutional law scholar Fan Yafeng, this rights defense model is still viable and is the most effective model for public non-violent civil disobedience. The fact that the Chinese government has adopted these two important legal amendments shows that using the law to defend citizens’ rights is a very effective model.
II. Protestants and Catholics Alike are Harshly Persecuted
So far this year, ChinaAid has documented the harassment, detentions and arrests of more than 1,5000 members of nearly 30 house churches in 11 provinces, one municipality under direct central government jurisdiction and three autonomous regions. In other words, in nearly half China’s regions and cities. The number of Christians detained exceeded 300.
ChinaAid has been closely documenting the peaceful actions of Beijing’s Shouwang Church, which has been trying to hold outdoor Sunday worship services since April when it lost the lease for its indoor meeting site due to government attempts to break up and close down the church. Domestic Security Protection agents and police have detained, taken into custody, and even mistreated Shouwang church members who showed up for the outdoor services. More than 700 individuals from the Shouwang Church have been detained for various periods since April 2011. Adding this number to the above-mentioned 300-plus detentions, the total number of Christians detained so far this year is more than 1,000.
The Chinese House Church Alliance is also a target of persecution. Its president, Pastor Zhang Mingxuan, has been arrested on many occasions, forcibly sent back to his hometown, and had his rental agreements terminated. Its vice-president, Pastor Shi Enhao, was sentenced in July by the Suqian Municipal Public Security Bureau in Jiangsu province to two years of re-education through labor, a term that he is currently serving.
The whereabouts of prominent Christian rights defense lawyer Gao Zhisheng, one of the first to be “disappeared” by the authorities, remain a mystery, and there is no information as to whether he is dead or alive. On January 10 of this year, Associated Press reporter Charles Hutzler published an exclusive interview with Gao entitled “Gao Zhisheng, Missing Chinese Lawyer, Described Torture Before Disappearing.” Hutzler recounted Gao’s detailed and anguished descriptions of the torture inflicted on him by the Chinese government in the 14 months after he disappeared into police custody on February 4, 2009.
Dr. Fan Yafeng, the prominent Christian constitutional law scholar, a pioneer in China’s legal rights defense movement and founder of the group Christian Human Rights Lawyers of China, was also tortured during nine days in police detention last December, and has been under house arrest since his release on December 18, 2010. All forms of communication with him have either been cut off or are controlled by the authorities.
Alimujiang, a Uyghur Christian house church leader in Xinjiang, has now served three years and 10 months of a 15-year sentence. In February of this year, his wife and other family members were notified that their appeal of his sentence, submitted last year, had been rejected and that the original 15-year sentence was upheld.
Rare cases of government action against Christians in Tibet have also occurred. On October 7, 11 Han Chinese church leaders and missionaries were arrested. They were all later released.
In early November, an 125-year-old church that is part of the government-run Three-Self Patriotic Movement in the city of Tai’an, coastal Shandong province, was forcibly demolished. Christians who rose up to defend their rights were beaten and harassed.
On November 11, the chief representative of the Beijing Shamozhihua (Flowers in the Desert) Television and Film Co., was apprehended and criminally detained for distributing a legal Christian documentary that had been approved by the government.
The persecution has not been restricted to Protestant Christians alone. Persecution of Catholics this year and relations between Beijing and the Vatican are cause for concern.
· On March 30, the government’s Catholic Patriotic Association ordained without Vatican approval Liang Jiansen bishop of Jiangmen archdiocese in Guangdong province.
· On June 26, Father Sun Jigen of Handan archdiocese in Hebei province, was taken away by police and held in custody just before his Vatican-approved ordination.
· Respectively on June 29 and on July 14, the Chinese Catholic Leshan archdiocese in Sichuan and the Shantou archdiocese in Guangdong province ordained without Vatican approval two bishops, Lei Shiyin and Huang Bingzhang.
· In August, several dozen leaders of the underground Catholic church in Tianshui, Gansu province, were detained and taken into custody.
The Chinese government’s suppression of house churches over the past few years, and especially in 2011, has undergone some disturbing changes, as evidenced by the cases referred to above and as reported by some senior lawyers involved in church rights protection.
In the past, the police and religious affairs bureau generally used the crime of “illegal gathering” when suppressing the house churches, and used detentions and fines to punish offenders. If the case involved a large amount of printed materials, prison or labor camp terms were meted out for the crime of “illegal business activity.” But starting in 2011, the police and religious affairs bureau began using such crimes as “organizing and using a cult to undermine law enforcement” or “holding illegal meetings under the guise of religion” etc. in cracking down on house churches. Furthermore, in addition to fines, they also used prison terms and labor camp terms. This was a new development. Prior to 2008, in cases where house churches were administratively punished, suits against the police or religious affairs bureau were generally accepted by the courts. But after 2008, getting the courts to accept such cases has been more difficult, and appeals are also difficult. They generally refuse to handle these cases.
In considering the situation of religious freedom over this past year, we can clearly see that the Chinese government severely and systematically violates religious freedom. Government orders to Three-Self churches and other religious organizations to join in concerts of praise to the Chinese Communist Party when the nation was marking the 90th anniversary of the founding of the Party in July clearly demonstrate that China’s concept of religious freedom is in fact nothing more than the freedom to follow the Communist Party.
In this unsettling situation, however, we also see reason for hope. And that is the social, political and cultural effects produced by Shouwang Church’s non-violent fight for its rights. This has demonstrated that China’s house churches have become the backbone of efforts to promote freedom of religion, human rights and the rule of law and the cornerstone for the development of a civil society in China.
III. Suggestions for effective ways to help persecuted house churches in China
In the past nine years, ChinaAid has been committed to drawing attention to and helping persecuted churches and Christians in mainland China, mainly house churches and house church Christians. Our main activities are exposing the persecution through the media, providing legal assistance in China, and traveling around the world to make appeals to the international community. The successes we have achieved in many cases demonstrate that collaborative teamwork that mobilizes the power of multiple resources is effective. In brief, concrete measures can be split into these three major categories:
1. Rights defense activities of Chinese house churches and Christian lawyers groups
Due to various legal restrictions imposed by the Chinese government, China has few registered non-government organizations. Furthermore, they are not allowed to engage in any work to advance human rights or the rule of law. Therefore, the rapid growth of the Chinese house churches and the ChinaAid-supported groups of Christian lawyers engaged in rights defense work in actuality function like unregistered NGOs, and have facilitated the emergence of a rights defense movement both within the church and in society as a whole.
Consequently, the Chinese government’s crackdown on Christian rights groups since the second half of 2010 is the cause of this year’s ebb in the legal rights movement. Be that as it may, what has emerged this year is spontaneous rights defense work among churches as well as the individual involvement of Christian lawyers, and the results they have achieved are nevertheless significant. For example, Beijing Shouwang Church’s spontaneous defense of its rights has continued for 33 straight weeks; and in the Shandong province city of Tai’an, Christians belonging to a Three-Self church that was about to be demolished also acted spontaneously in defending their rights.
Furthermore, officially registered NGOs, whether domestic or from overseas, can also play a supporting role in promoting the spread of Christianity and advancing social progress. For example, after the 2008 Sichuan earthquake, these organizations were able to team up with churches to carry out relief work. Also, think tanks that are Christian or run by someone who is a Christian can impact society by promoting a culture of Christian ethics in cultural and ideological spheres.
2. Vigorous support from Western governments, churches & NGOs
Western governments, churches and NGOs have contributed greatly in helping those churches and Christians in China that have suffered persecution. Western governments have urged China to improve its human rights record, the rule of law and freedom of religion, and have also assisted in specific persecution cases. The contributions of churches in the West, in the form of concern, prayers, public opinion, financial support, cannot go unnoticed. NGOs provided fast and highly efficient help in shaping public opinion, influencing foreign affairs and drawing media and public attention.
At present, in order to work together to protect the legitimate rights of the church from persecution, we need to bring together forces from all three spheres and put them to use in the following ways:
First, the United States and Europe must work together and adopt more effective measures, such as:
(1) use diplomatic means to press China to release some important prisoners of conscience;
(2) hold regular parties at your embassies to which are invited representatives of all sectors of society, including politicians and advocates of human rights, the rule of law and religious freedom;
(3) consulates in China can make telephone calls to those who have been persecuted;
(4) consular officials can invite to tea those people who have been persecuted;
(5) attach importance to academic exchanges with China. Embassies and consulates can hold academic forums on China’s politics, human rights, rule of law and religious freedom; these events would take place on mission premises and can be called “cultural exchanges.” This academic approach can promote ideological trends and have a far-reaching impact.
(6) through direct dialogue with Chinese leaders, urge them as individuals to respond to the EU’s requests.
Second, churches must be actively involved in getting members to take part in the joint fight against persecution by:
(1) continuing to work with the media, so as to enable Western society to pay particular attention to those seriously persecuted individuals and churches. They can telephone government officials and members of parliament and send e-mails to friends and family.
(2) using information found on the ChinaAid website to write or call persecuted churches, Christians and their families, and to get more people to sign petitions for the release of prisoners.
(3) continuing to provide financial support to help the families of imprisoned Christians and the churches’ and Christian lawyers’ legal rights protection movement.
(4) initiating special prayer activities. For example, churches can launch large-scale community-wide, city-wide, nationwide or even worldwide prayer activities specifically for Beijing Shouwang Church, and for Alimujiang, Gao Zhisheng, Fan Yafeng, Shi Enhao and other Christians who have not been freed from imprisonment.
Finally, overseas NGOs can organize complementary actions:
For NGOs that are think tanks, they can hold forums specifically about persecution, invite experts to speak on specific persecution cases, and publish journals of the proceedings. For example, they can hold a forum on the persecution of Shouwang Church, and invite scholars, intellectuals and officials to participate. They can also try holding similar but low-key events, in accordance with the law, jointly with Chinese NGOs.
For NGOs of a protest nature, they can hold outdoor demonstrations like protest marches, calling for society and governments to pay attention to persecution, that will send a clear signal of support to the persecuted.
For NGOs engaged in dialogue, they can have amiable dialogue with the Chinese government, NGOs and business community to make a case for the release of specific victims of persecution who have been imprisoned. These discussions should not just occur overseas but should also be carried out in China.
3. ChinaAid’s overall coordination work
ChinaAid plays the following roles in the overall work of helping the persecuted: providing a platform for information dissemination, acting as a liaison among all parties, and developing strategies, as well as other general coordination tasks. We carry out these tasks in these primary ways:
(1) through the ChinaAid website, release primary data and information about persecution cases, thereby drawing worldwide media, government, church and NGO attention.
(2) help and guide persecuted churches and individuals to protect and defend their rights through legal means.
(3) through secure and long-established channels, deliver assistance funds into the hands of victims of persecution.
(4) in the United States and the European Union, use pro-active diplomacy to induce the Chinese government to attach importance to the problem of persecution so as to bring about its end.
(5) liaise Chinese and overseas groups to launch signature campaigns and specific assistance projects.
(6) organize regular house church training sessions about the law regarding religion and rights protection.
(7) organize groups to travel overseas for training, and publish and distribute printed materials, books and videos.
Through effective teamwork among the above-mentioned three spheres, it is possible to provide strong, comprehensive support to the churches in China that are undergoing persecution, not just in providing practical assistance and in equipping persecuted churches and Christians, but also in promoting the growth of the rights defense movement among churches, so that the church can grow in the midst of persecution, and also in encouraging tens of thousands of Christians not to lose heart in the midst of persecution but rather to be strong, because they can see that they are not abandoned when they are persecuted.
About ChinaAid’s Founder and President
Pastor “Bob” Xiqiu Fu is originally from China’s coastal Shandong province. He graduated from Shandong’s Liaocheng Teachers College in foreign languages, holds a double bachelor’s degree from People’s University and the Institute of Foreign Relations, and taught at the Beijing Municipal Communist Party School. In the United States, he earned a master’s degree from Westminster Theological Seminary and is now working on his PhD.
Pastor Fu was persecuted while in college for taking part in the 1989 Tiananmen Square student democracy movement. The resulting sense of hopelessness he felt led to a spiritual awakening, and Pastor Fu accepted the truth of the Bible and became a Christian passionate about spreading the Gospel. In 1996, when they were leaders of a house church of mainly college students, Pastor Fu and his wife were arrested and imprisoned for two months. They later escaped to the United States and in 2002 founded China Aid Association.
Pastor Fu and his ministry are highly regarded both by those in China and in the international arena. He is an expert on Christian persecution in China and religious freedom issues. He is frequently interviewed by media from around the world and has testified at U.S. congressional hearings and before the European Parliament and the United Nations. In his frequent travels, he has met with government officials in many countries and the leaders of Christian institutions, think thanks and other NGOs for extensive exchanges and cooperation. He is committed to promoting religious freedom, human rights and the rule of law in China.
ChinaAid’s websites：www.ChinaAid.net www.ChinaAid.org
China Aid Contacts
Rachel Ritchie, English Media Director
Cell: (432) 553-1080 | Office: 1+ (888) 889-7757 | Other: (432) 689-6985
Email: [email protected]