ChinaAid Picks 2011’s Top 10 Cases of Persecution of Churches and Christians in China

Submitted by China Aid Association
January 19, 2012

“But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.”
Amos 5:24

2011 can be regarded as China’s “year of political and religious persecution” or “year of Beijing terrorism.” Last year saw the revival of extreme leftist ideology and a severe deterioration of the rule of law, bringing with it not only the most severe deterioration in political and religious freedom for the Chinese people since the 1966-1976 Cultural Revolution and the 1989 military crackdown on the Tiananmen Square pro-democracy movement, but also blatant human rights violations and a worrying economic crisis. Because of the Arab Spring Jasmine Revolution in 2011, a systematic crackdown on churches and prominent Christians that was launched in the second half of 2010 was extended and lasted for the whole of 2011.

ChinaAid’s selection of the top 10 persecution cases for 2011 is based on the severity, impact and significance of each incidence of persecution and is a highly representative list. These cases occurred in different parts of China and involved both urban and rural house churches, as well as “Three-Self” churches and Catholic churches. The victims included pastors, human rights lawyers, political dissidents and artists.

1. Beijing Shouwang Church―nonstop persecution throughout the year

In 2011, Beijing Shouwang Church, a well-known house church in Beijing with more than 1,000 members, was forced to hold its worship services outdoors. The government’s persecution of the church has lasted for 38 weeks nonstop and is ongoing. This large-scale and persistent crackdown on Shouwang Church is part of the government’s widespread suppression of house churches in 2011 and can be viewed as a continuation of the persecution that started with the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games.

(This July 3, 2011 photo shows Shouwang church members who managed to get to the outdoor worship site starting their Sunday morning worship service.)

Shouwang Church was established in Pastor Jin Tianming in 1993 as a Beijing college students fellowship. According to its March 27, 2011 “Beijing Shouwang Church Announcement to the Congregation” and its April 14, 2011 “Beijing Shouwang Church’s Further Explanation on Outdoor Services,” the church began in 2005 to rent office building space for its Sunday services, and in 2006 applied to the government for permission to register, which has never been granted. On May 11, 2008, taking advantage of the pre-Olympic Games “rectification” of society, the religious affairs bureau, the police and other government departments of Beijing’s Haidian District burst into a Shouwang meeting and tried to close down the church, to no avail. In August 2009, under repeated pressure from the government, the landlord of Huajie Building where the church had been meeting terminated the lease with Shouwang Church, and the church was forced to hold worship services outdoors on Nov. 1 and 8 in Haidian Park, after which the government allowed the church to hold its activities indoors. On Dec. 22, Shouwang Church purchased the 1,500-square-meter (16,145-square-foot) second floor of the Zhongguancun Daheng Technology Building, paying in full the price of 27 million yuan (US$4.27 million). However, due to government pressures behind-the-scenes, the seller has not handed over the keys, nor given any explanation for refusing to do so. In May and August of 2010 and in March 2011, Shouwang Church made three attempts to rent indoor venues but met with failure each time due to government interference.

At the end of March 2011, Shouwang Church was no longer able to hold its Sunday services at its leased premises in the “Old Story Club.” So Shouwang Church, which had adopted as its vision and mission to be a “city on a hill,” was left with no recourse but to hold its April 10, 2011 Sunday worship service outdoors. At 8:30 a.m., more than 200 believers showed up at the third-level platform of Zhongguancun Plaza, which is located south of the Beijing Zhongguancun Dinghao Building and southeast of Zhongguang Building, and connected to the Jiangnanfu Theme Restaurant. More than 160 church members were taken into police custody. All were released within 24 hours with the exception one pastor and his wife, who were detained for 48 hours.

(This July 3, 2011 photo shows Shouwang Church members outside a police station singing worship songs to encourage brothers and sisters being detained in the police station.)

In the 37 weeks that followed―until the last Sunday of 2011, which was Christmas Day―the same basic scenario played out every Sunday. Shouwang Church members would go to the designated location every Sunday for their outdoor worship service, and police and Domestic Security Protection guards would take them into custody. They would be sent to different police stations where they were usually detained for no more than 48 hours and released singly or in small groups. During the 38 weeks of outdoor worship, a total of more than 1,000 church members were taken into police custody, including a few believers from other churches who joined them in a show of solidarity. Several hundred other church members were placed under house arrest by police and Domestic Security Protection guards. During this time, some believers were verbally and physically abused while in detention, and some lost their jobs or were evicted due to government pressure on their employers and landlords. The church’s pastors and elders were confined under house arrest the entire time and deprived of their liberty.

Shouwang’s pastors and believers have endured unimaginable pressure and paid a heavy price. This protracted act of obeying God rather than man and of upholding the vision of being “a city on a hill” is still ongoing―as is the government’s illegal persecution.

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2. Chinese House Church Alliance’s Bible training raided, Korean pastors deported

On May 10, 2011, which was the second day of the third round of the U.S.–China Strategic and Economic Dialogue in Washington, D.C., police in China staged a surprise raid on a church lay leadership training session being conducted by the Chinese House Church Alliance in Weishi county, Zhengzhou, Henan Province.

In this incident, 49 church staff from the provinces of Henan, Shandong, Anhui and some other regions were arrested, including three people of Korean descent. The Weishi county police ransacked the third floor of the building where the training was being held, confiscated all the personal belongings of the 49 detainees, who were detained in the Weishi county church and interrogated. All were released the following day, and two Korean pastors were deported. Pastor Jin Yongzhe and his wife, a Chinese citizen, were punished with five days of administrative detention.

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3. Jiangsu province’s Suqian House Church repeatedly persecuted; Pastor Shi Enhao given two-year labor camp sentence

Shi Enhao, pastor of the Suqian Church in Jiangsu province and vice president of the Chinese House Church Alliance, was sentenced to two years of re-education-through-labor, and is currently serving this labor camp sentence.

On March 4, 2011, while preaching in Nanyang, Henan province, Shi Enhao was seized by officers from the Suqian Municipal Public Security Bureau and religious affairs bureau officials who had made a special trip to Nanyang to take him into custody. He was brought back to Suqian and detained, getting beat up in the process. On May 31, 2011, Shi Enhao and some of his co-workers were formally arrested by local authorities, and he and a lay leader, sister Chang Meiling, were sentenced to 12 days of administrative detention. On the night of June 1, Shi Enhao’s residence was searched by more than 10 people who confiscated books and documents. Immediately upon his release on June 12, Shi Enhao was put into police detention. In July, he was sentenced to two years in labor camp. Afterwards, police confiscated 140,000 yuan (US$22,160) of offerings to the church, along with a church vehicle, musical instruments and the church choir robes. Police also verbally threatened Shi Enhao’s three daughters and sons-in-law.

That was not the end of persecution of this church. On Aug. 12, three church elders were detained and one of them, Wu Changle, was sentenced to five days of administrative detention (not implemented). On Oct. 1, Domestic Security Protection agents took into custody church lay leader Chang Meiling and placed her under house arrest for two days. On Nov. 14, Suqian municipal authorities threatened the church staff and banned them from holding services.

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4. More suppression of Catholics; Vatican continues to face “red challenge”

Following the Chinese government’s unapproved ordinations in the second half of 2010 that caused Beijing – Vatican relations to fall to a historic low, persecution of Catholics in 2011 was cause for even more concern. On March 30, without Vatican approval, the government’s Catholic Patriotic Association ordained 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, without Vatican approval, the Chinese Catholic Leshan archdiocese in Sichuan province and the Shantou archdiocese in Guangdong province ordained 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.

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5. Twenty-one house church leaders criminally detained in Inner Mongolia; police extort money from detainees’ families

On July 26, 2011, dozens of Domestic Security Protection agents from the Haibowan sub-bureau of the Wuhai police force burst into a meeting in the city of Wuhai, Inner Mongolia, where church leaders from Wuhai and Ningxia Province’s Shizuishan were gathered to plan church activities. All 21 attendees were criminally detained.

Domestic Security Protection agents confiscated everything at the meeting site. Even the bamboo mats that believers regularly use to rest and nap on after meetings were loaded into police vehicles and taken away. The 21 church leaders were criminally detained on suspicion of “using a cult organization to undermine national law enforcement.” Before they were transferred to the detention center, they were given physical exams. Six of them were very elderly and were found to be in poor health, and the detention center refused to accept them. So they were released and the remaining 15 church leaders were held at the detention center. (See scan of detention notice for Ning Yuncai at right.) Fifteen days into their detention, their families were told that if they could raise 50,000 yuan (US$7,915), the detainees would be released. But when the families delivered the money to the prosecutor’s office, it turned around and sent the case back to the Public Security Bureau. The Public Security Bureau then told the families that if they did not raise several tens of thousands of yuan again, the detainees would be sent to labor camps or given prison sentences. (ChinaAid does not have information about the subsequent developments in this case.)

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6. In historic first, report of house church persecution in Tibet

Before and after China’s National Day on the first of October, 11 members of a house church in Lhasa, the capital city of Tibet, were criminally detained and held for nearly a month before being released. During this time, a large number of Tibetan Bibles were confiscated and some Christians were insulted and beaten.

This first-ever public report of house church persecution in Tibet is historic. Brother Song Kuanxin, a house church missionary from Zhumadian, Henan province, was criminally detained on Oc. 7 “on suspicion of (being part of a) cult group.” He was held with convicted felons, and was later notified that his detention was being extended to 30 days for “committing crimes everywhere.” While Song was in detention, police officers blasphemed and insulted his faith and repeatedly beat him. On Nov. 11, after being forced to write a guarantee, Song was released early. However, he was told that all the belongings that police had confiscated from his home, including two laptops, were considered tools for his criminal activities and had been destroyed. He recorded the details of this incidence of persecution and posted it on the Internet.

One of the detained church leaders was a sister surnamed Wang, who with her husband have adopted 10 Tibetan and Han Chinese orphans, some with disabilities. Life is hard for them.

For more details, go to:

(Photo shows some of sister Wang’s adopted orphans.)

7. Century–old church in Tai’an, Shandong Province demolished; congregation protests

From September to November 2011, while a Chinese government Bible exhibition organized by the Religious Affairs Bureau and the Three-Self Patriotic Movement was touring the United States, a century-old church in Tai’an, Shandong province, was facing government-approved illegal demolition despite being a state-sanctioned Three-Self Patriotic Movement church. Church walls were destroyed and believers were beaten for protesting the demolition.

(Photo shows rubble from the demolished parts of the church)

The church is located on Lingzhi Street, in the Taishan District of the city of Tai’an. Built by two British missionaries in 1886, the 12th year of Emperor Guangxu’s reign, the church compound originally extended over two acres, and is now 125 years old. On Nov. 16, 2010, about 30 to 40 church members stopped demolition crews who started to move in on the church. That afternoon, church member spontaneously took turns protecting their church from being demolished by real estate developers while seeking government help. On Nov. 20, when the developers again tried to start the demolition, several elderly Christians stood in their way, achieving a temporary suspension of the demolition.

In the second half of 2011, the church was again facing demolition. The wall of the part of the church that had been the Christian high school set up by the Anglican Church was forcibly torn down. Elderly church members who tried to stop the destruction were beaten to the ground. The church on Nov. 9 lodged a formal appeal with the government, seeking lawful handling of church property, a stop to the demolition and return of occupied church property.

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8. Beijing Sister Jiang Yaxi criminally detained for distributing documentary “Beyond,” Now Awaits Trial

On Nov. 11, 2011, Beijing police criminally detained Ms. Jiang Yaxi, a Christian and the “enterprise legal person” of the Beijing Shamozhihua (Flowers in the Desert) Television and Film Co., for producing and selling in China copies of the faith-related documentary “Beyond” made by the U.S.-based China Soul for Christ Foundation.

In early August, an inspection team of the Beijing Culture Bureau searched the Beijing Chengguang (Dawn) Bookstore and confiscated 40 sets of “Beyond.” The bookstore was also fined 4000 yuan (US$633) for selling illegal goods.

In mid-August, the Beijing Culture Bureau and Beijing police staged a surprise raid of Jiang’s company, demanding that Jiang turn over all company records related to “Beyond,” including sales records and customer records. The inspection team also searched the warehouse where copies of “Beyond” were stored, confiscated all the “Beyond” products, and fined her 100,000 yuan (US$15,850). Government prosecutors have reportedly approved sister Jiang Yaxi’s arrest, and she is now awaiting trial.

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9. Christian human rights lawyers and dissidents harshly punished

According to incomplete statistics, some 100 lawyers, human rights activists and dissidents in 2011 were forcibly “disappeared,” tortured, detained and even sentenced to prison terms.

(left to right: Jiang Tianyong, Li Fangping, Tang Jingling)

Three prominent Christian human rights lawyers were victims of “state terrorism.” On Feb. 19, Jiang Tianyong was kidnapped by Beijing police and detained for 60 days. During that time, he was subjected to torture and to “rescue and education” brainwashing. On April 29, Li Fangping went missing in Beijing. He was released five days later and had been tortured. On Feb. 22, Tang Jingling was seized in Guangzhou. After being detained for five months, he was escorted back to his hometown in Hubei province. After he returned to Guangzhou on Sept. 25, he was put under house arrest beginning on Oct. 1. On Dec. 8, he was taken away by Domestic Security Protection agents for showing concern for the Wukan village incident in Guangdong province, where villagers protested for a week over farmland seizures and the death an activist in police custody.

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Two prominent Christian dissidents were given harsh penalties for posting articles on the Internet criticizing the government. In February 2011, Chen Wei, a pro-democracy activist in Suining, Sichuan province, was arrested by the authorities on suspicion of “subversion of state power” and was sentenced on Dec. 23 to 10 years in prison. Chen Xi of Guizhou province was arrested on Nov. 29, by the authorities for “inciting subversion of state power” and sentenced on Dec. 26 to 10 years in prison.

(Chen Wei & Chen Xi)

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Another well-known human rights lawyer and Christian, Ms. Ni Nulan from Beijing, started in 2002 to expose the forced demolition of housing in Beijing in advance of the 2008 Olympics Games and was sentenced to a one-year prison term for it. She was so brutally beaten that her legs were permanently disabled. On Feb. 11, 2011, John Huntsman, then U.S. ambassador to China, visited Ni and had a picture taken with her. On April 6, Ni and her husband, Dong Jiqin, (see photo) were taken into custody by Beijing Xicheng district police for “picking quarrels and provoking trouble” and the Xicheng district procuratorate approved her formal arrest. Around July 13, the charge of “fraud” was added to her alleged crimes. She was tried on Dec. 29 in Xicheng District Court, but the outcome is still unknown.

The Dutch government announced on December 22 that its 2011 Human Rights Defenders Tulip award was going to Ni Yulan. She had been nominated for the prize by ChinaAid and Christian Solidarity Worldwide.

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10. After 20 months of forced disappearance, Gao Zhisheng is put in prison to serve a three-year sentence

During the 2011 Christmas season, prominent Christian human rights lawyer Gao Zhisheng, who was kidnapped by the authorities and forcibly “disappeared” for 20 months, was sent to Shaya prison in Xinjiang to serve a three-year prison term. Family members who went to the prison to see him were refused entry.

In a brief English-language dispatch on Dec. 16, China’s official Xinhua News Agency said Gao Zhisheng was being sent back to prison to serve the three-year prison term to which he had originally been sentenced because he had repeatedly violated the terms of his probation. In their hometown in Shaanxi province, Gao Zhisheng’s eldest brother, Gao Zhiyi, on Jan. 1, 2012, received “notice of criminal’s admittance into prison” issued on Dec. 19, 2011, by the Shaya prion in Xinjiang’s Aksu region, the first confirmation that Gao Zhisheng had been incarcerated to serve the three-year prison term. Gao Zhiyi, accompanied by Gao Zhisheng’s father-in-law and two sisters, travelled to Xinjiang’s Shaya prison to visit him but were told on arrival that they could not see him. To date, they are still waiting nearby for permission to visit.

(File photo of Gao Zhisheng and his family before his forced disappearance.)

Gao Zhisheng is a lawyer who handled a number of controversial cases, including the northern Shaanxi province oil field case, the Christian persecution case in Kashgar, Xinjiang, and Falungong cases. In November 2005, the Beijing Justice Bureau Beijing shut down the Zhisheng Law Firm, of which Gao was the director. On Dec. 22, 2006, he was charged with “inciting subversion of state power” and sentenced to three years’ imprisonment, with a two-year reprieve and five-year deprivation of political rights, and was released to go home. On Sept. 21, 2007, he was arrested again and held for 50 days. After his release, he wrote an account entitled “Dark Night, Dark Hood, and Kidnapping by Dark Mafia” in which he described the torture inflicted on him, including toothpicks inserted in his genitals. On Jan. 9, 2009, his wife and children left Beijing, secretly escaping from China for the United State, via Thailand. On Feb. 4, 2009, Gao was again kidnapped by the authorities and “disappeared.” On March 27, 2010, he suddenly resurfaced, though under the surveillance of Chinese plainclothes police, only to disappear again on April 20. On Dec. 10, 2010, ChinaAid founder and president Pastor Bob Fu travelled to Oslo, Norway, to attend the Nobel Peace Award Ceremony. Bob Fu visited the Chinese Embassy in Norway to submit a petition of 150,000 signatures for the release of Gao Zhisheng. The same day, ChinaAid also coordinated submission of the petition to 14 Chinese embassies and consulates around the world. On Jan. 10, 2011, the Associated Press published an exclusive news report entitled “Gao Zhisheng, Missing Chinese Lawyer, Described Torture Before Disappearing” in which reporter Charles Hutzler recounted his meeting with Gao at a Beijing teahouse during which Gao described the horror of the torture inflicted on him by the Chinese government during his detention in Beijing, Shaanxi and Xinjiang after he was “disappeared” into police custody.

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2011 was a dark year in China’s history. This list of top 10 persecution cases can by no means fully capture the deterioration in China of religious freedom, human rights and the rule of law in 2011, nor the price paid in blood and tears of the victims of brutal persecution. Pastor Bob Fu said, “2011 was a harsh winter for human rights in China, and I am not optimistic about things getting better.”

Nevertheless, in the face of continuous and targeted persecution, Christ’s church and his followers have, as always, shown extraordinary patience and perseverance, holding fast to the faith without regard to the cost, while living out with remarkable determination and persistence the non-violent model of defending one’s legal rights. This kind of courage, tolerance, perseverance, wisdom, love and hope is rare in other social groups and individuals in Chinese society.

China’s churches and Christians are going through persecution, but they need not place their hopes on any government or organization. They rely on the head of church alone―the Lord Jesus Christ―and remain faithful to this great God. As the Lord has promised in Romans 8:31, “What then are we to say about these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?”

The Chinese Communist government’s brutal persecution of the church in the past 60 years has not been able to stem the growth and development of God’s church. Is this not the most powerful testimony to the work of the Holy Spirit? Christ’s followers in China, you shall boast in the Lord.

History will one day pove that the growth of the church in China is setting the foundation for world peace, prosperity, and progress.

China Aid Association, USA
Further distribution and posting welcome

A PDF version of this report is available for download here:

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