China Aid Association
(Washington, D.C.—July 27, 2012) On the same day that U.S. and Chinese officials were holding a human rights dialogue in the nation’s capital, ChinaAid celebrated its 10th anniversary with a seminar on human rights and the rule of law and an awards ceremony recognizing Chinese human rights lawyers and U.S. congressmen who have been at the forefront of the fight to protect human rights and bring about the rule of law in China.
The seminar on “Human Rights, Religious Freedom and the Rule of Law in China: A 10-year Review and Future Prospects” was followed by a noon luncheon award ceremony for ChinaAid’s first “2012 Religious Freedom and Rule of Law Defenders Award” and “Defenders of Freedom in China Award.” Both events took place on Capitol Hill on Tuesday (July 24) and were held in an atmosphere of unity, faith and hope.
The day’s proceedings were all broadcast live on ChinaAid’s Chinese and English websites to viewers worldwide. The highlights included:
I. Seminar on “Human Rights, Religious Freedom and Rule of Law in China: A 10-Year Review and Future Prospects”
ChinaAid staff and volunteers began setting up for the seminar in the Cannon Building of the House of Representatives at 8 a.m., and guests started to arrive at 9:30 a.m.
The seminar opened at 10 a.m. with Joe Torres, ChinaAid’s board chairman, welcoming the guests and briefly introducing the seminar program. He restated ChinaAid’s mission: exposing the abuses, encouraging the abused, equipping the leaders of religious freedom. He concluded his remarks by quoting Philippines 1:4-6, “In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”
ChinaAid founder and president Pastor Bob Fu then introduced the first speaker, Ms. Sharon Hom, executive director of Human Rights in China. Ms. Hom is a Chinese immigrant who in 2007 was ranked among the 50 most influential businesswomen by The Wall Street Journal. In the 1980s and 1990s, she taught at eight law schools in China and trained judges for 14 years.
Ms. Hom began by saying that she wanted to incorporate both Chinese and American ways of thinking in her remarks. She first thanked ChinaAid and the Chinese human rights lawyers and their families, then reviewed China’s human rights situation over the past decade. She noted the 200-year history of Sino-U.S. contacts and exchanges through labor, evangelism and commerce, etc. She criticized China, noting that although China’s international contacts and exchanges had grown, it has not been following international rules. Rather, it is changing those rules. In spite of the growth of China’s GDP, the human rights situation, the lack of religious freedom and the rule of law as well as the pollution of the Chinese people’s living environment are all disturbing. She pointed out that the lawyers fighting for human rights and freedom represent not just a marginal elite class dissatisfied with China’s human rights condition but rather the wishes of the massive majority of people. She described the recent protest movement in Shifang, Sichuan province, and the government’s harsh crackdown, and noted in particular the crucial involvement of the generation that was born in 1990s.
Hom also had critical words for the United States, saying that its war-time human rights violations, such the abuse of prisoners held at Guantanamo, had given China an opportunity to criticize the United States. Therefore, the United States needs to become a champion of morality and ethics, she said. Lastly, Hom cited the Chen Guangcheng case to illustrate the new directions in China’s human rights and rights defense movement. She also recalled Chinese Christian human rights lawyer Li Fangping telling her a few years ago that she and others like her defend human rights not because they want to see the results, but because it is their mission and calling regardless of the involvement of the international community. But, Li also told Hom, certainly we need the collaborative efforts of the international community.
After Ms. Hom concluded her remarks, Pastor Bob Fu announced that the blind human rights lawyer Chen Guangcheng, now at New York University, had planned to come attend the day’s events, but was unable to make it for undisclosed reasons. So he sent this congratulatory text message: “Congratulations to ChinaAid on its 10th anniversary. Now the big tree has reached the clouds in the sky. Human rights are the root of humanity. Guard the tree’s root firmly and it will surely disperse the clouds and reveal the blue sky.— from Chen Guangcheng on the 10th anniversary of China Aid Association.”
Then former ChinaAid board chairman Doug Robison (photo at left) briefly recalled how he had picked up Pastor Bob Fu and his family in Midland, Texas, upon their arrival some years ago. He gave high praised to ChinaAid’s and Bob Fu’s ministry accomplishments in the past 10 years, then he introduced Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas).
Sen. John Cornyn also spoke highly of the work of Bob Fu and ChinaAid. He noted that when Americans speak of China, they always think of the skyscrapers in Shanghai and how China’s economy has made great strides in the past 30 years. But he reminded the audience that China is also a nation of tyrannical Communist dictatorship. The Communist Party controls every aspect of people’s lives, from commerce in the cities to the grassroots villages, he said, adding that China is a nation where human rights is brutally abused, such as forced abortion, forced organ harvesting of prison inmates, religious persecution of Christians and depriving them of their freedom to worship God. Cornyn described these unjust phenomena as manifestations of evil and said this is why the work ChinaAid has been doing is so important.
He recalled that ten years ago, when Hu Jintao became the secretary-general of the Chinese Communist Party, many Westerners optimistically believed he would become China’s Gorbachev. Unfortunately, however, during Hu’s 10 years in office, government oppression has worsened and China has moved further away from democracy. Cornyn said that supporting human rights and the rule of law in China is more than a moral concern. Pragmatically speaking the U.S. government has to deal with the Chinese government because it needs China to buy U.S. bonds, he noted to some laughter from the audience. Moreover, he added, China oppresses its own people domestically while expanding its territory outwardly. While relentlessly oppressing its own people, it is increasing its military power and that is making its neighbors in Southeast Asia feel threatened, especially since its military power is not very transparent to the rest of the world, he said.
In closing, Cornyn emphasized that as we Americans enjoy freedom, we have no reason to withhold our support from the just cause of the Chinese people’s fight against their government’s oppression. Therefore, he once more praised and encouraged Bob Fu and ChinaAid to continue with their great work and expressed his commitment to giving his full support.
The next seminar speaker was Dr. David Aikman (photo at left), former Time magazine bureau chief in Beijing and Jerusalem, author of the well-known book Jesus in Beijing, and professor at Patrick Henry College. He opened by first congratulating ChinaAid on its 10th anniversary. He recalled that 10 years ago he spent a whole summer in China collecting material for his book Jesus in Beijing, the first edition of which was published in 2003. Since that summer, China has undergone a lot of changes, he said, noting for example that the atmosphere then was much more relaxed: not as many prominent figures of faith groups were in prison, lawyers did not go missing as they do now and there were fewer cases of beatings and torture. In his interviews with house church members and officials and representatives of “Three-Self” churches, they voiced the possibility of the two sides reaching a consensus in some areas. And the human rights conditions seemed to be improving, he said.
But according to Aikman, that all started to change in 2003, mainly because Hu Jintao came to power. Noting that Sen. Cornyn had just made the same observation, Aikman said that many people had wrongly predicted that this new leader would be more liberal, just as when Soviet leader Brezhnev died and KGB head Andropov came to power, some people predicted that this new leader would be better, but in fact, his rule “was disastrous.” When he died, he was succeeded by Chernenko, then by Gorbachev, who was the one who changed the Soviet Union. Likewise, when Hu Jintao came to power, he thought Jiang Zemin’s policy was weak and therefore took a hard line, which Aikman said should not have been a surprise in light of the fact that Hu Jintao was in charge of Tibet in 1980s and carried out the most severe crackdown in the history of Tibet. Under his administration, instead of controlling the people the way the KGB did, he selectively picked targets and terrorized people by using Mafia tactics, including beatings, torture and threatening their families.
Aikman noted that China had borrowed a practice from Argentina when it was under totalitarian rule in the 1960s and 1970s and people were “disappeared.” The Chinese government is now using this same terrorizing tactic, and what has happened to lawyer Gao Zhisheng is an example. He believed that the Liu Xiaobo case had led to another crackdown on human rights activists, and human rights in China now are at a low ebb. But many brave men and women have stood up in defense of human rights, Aikman said, and among the new generation of human rights lawyers, many have become Christians, and they are fighting with courage and perseverance on behalf of the ordinary people being oppressed by a mighty government. Aikman was not optimistic about the future, saying that China’s politics would be more harsh and tight for many years to come. In the next decade China is not likely to become a democracy, he said, but added that political change in China could be dramatic and unexpected too, as happened in the Middle East’s Jasmine Revolution.
Finally, Aikman referred to Beijing Shouwang Church, and its vision of being “a city upon a hill.” This was the exhortation of Puritan leader JohnWinthrop to the American settlers in 1630 that the country they were founding should “be as a city upon a hill.” Aikman concluded by saying that what these Christians leaders are doing right now will impact China’s democracy, human rights and peace in the long term and in many different ways. May God bless all their work, he said.
After Aikman’s speech, Bob Fu introduced Ms. Geng He, wife of Gao Zhisheng; Chen Qiao, daughter of Mr. Liu Xianbin, a Christian who is serving a 10-year sentence; and Pastor Zhang Qianjin and his family from California who have been hosting Chen Qiao for a long time. He then introduced former ChinaAid board member Charlie Erickson, former board member Sen. Beau Boulter, and former board members Scott McGraw and Tim Dunn.
After that, Dr. Li Baiguang, a prominent human rights lawyer from Beijing (photo at left) spoke through an interpreter. Li said that in the past 30 years, China has made great progress in economic development, but China’s politics, rule of law and human rights have not experienced the same level of development. Li said that as a legal professional, he has profoundly experienced the reality in Chinese society that the rights and freedom granted by China’s laws often are not realized. Why has this happened? he asked. What should we as Chinese citizens and legal professionals do? What is our vision for China’s future?
Li observed that the decline of human rights and rule of law in China in the past decade have mainly been in the following three ways:
1. forcible expropriation of farmland and forced demolition of citizen’s homes
2. ongoing government suppression of human rights activists
3. ongoing suppression and deprivation of citizen’s religious freedom
Li observed that 15 years ago ordinary people in China were more tolerant of these abuses. But today, because of the development of the Internet, Chinese citizens have quickly awakened and become aware of the issues of human rights, democracy and rule of law because of the influence of and communication with the free world. Abuse of government power can quickly provoke citizens to fight. This is why we are witnessing a vigorous rise and advancement of rights defense campaigns in China, he said. In a society where there is no restriction on government authority, no democracy, no rule of law, no independent media, and where civil society is not developed, government and law enforcement personnel can reap enormous individual and group benefits by violating laws and compromising law enforcement. Li observed that the past 20 years of development have brought greater wealth to China’s civil society, but it is still fragile in the face of government power. Because of China’s 2000-year tradition of autocratic feudalism, Chinese citizens do not match the rest of the world in their knowledge and understanding of government and government power, he said. In most cases, it is only when a citizen’s individual rights are violated that he or she becomes aware of human dignity and citizen rights. Li observed that the lack of awareness of civil rights is also an important contributing factor to the wonton disregard for citizen’s rights by law enforcement personnel.
Why does the Chinese government want to suppress house churches? Li asked rhetorically. Because a totalitarian state cannot tolerate the existence of any social force outside government control, he said. Until about a decade ago, persecuted houses churches in China often chose to keep silent about their persecution and were not aware that they could defend their rights, or they chose to compromise. But the appearance of ChinaAid brought about a rights defense movement among China’s churches, Li said. ChinaAid stood behind many rights defense cases, and has also actively involved the international community, pursued informal diplomacy, and exposed many cases by engaging the U.S. Congress, international non-government organizations and the international media. In every case in which ChinaAid was involved in, Li said, the state agency [in China] was forced to back off, and this enabled religious freedom to grow vigorously in China. Li said that he was baptized as a Christian seven years ago, and in the past six years, he has participated legal work defending churches’ rights in more than 20 provinces. He said that the legal work of defending religious freedom and rights supported by ChinaAid would gradually improve China’s human rights condition and rule of law. In this respect, ChinaAid is becoming increasingly effective in its impact. In closing, Li presented some specific cases of rights abuse to show how exercising and implementing legal procedures to defend human rights will promote the rule of law.
The last speaker was Shi Weihan, a house church pastor from Beijing who was sentenced to three years’ imprisonment in June 2009 for printing Bibles and Christian literature. He fled to the United States after he was released in 2001. He said that he was beaten and tortured in prison, including being hung from a hook in the wall while his hands were cuffed behind his back, being electrocuted and having cold water dumped on him in winter, etc. His family was made to suffer because of him, most notably his brother who was so brutally beaten that his kidney stopped functioning and he had to have kidney transplant surgery in December 2009. Pastor Shi thanked ChinaAid for helping him and praised Pastor Bob Fu’s effective work. Finally, he expressed the hope that someday, when China is a free country, wanderers like him who are in exile overseas would be able to go home.
The seminar came to a successful conclusion at 11:45 a.m.
II. ChinaAid’s luncheon award ceremony for its first “2012 Religious Freedom and Rule of Law Defenders Award” and “Defenders of Freedom in China Award”.
ChinaAid’s luncheon award ceremony began at 12:30 p.m. The venue in the House of Representatives’ Rayburn Building was filled to capacity, with many forced to stand at the back of the room.
Pastor David Wong (left photo below) opened the luncheon event with a prayer. Then Pastor Bob Fu introduced members of the ChinaAid board in attendance. He mentioned and gave special thanks to Dr. Scott Flipse (middle photo below) of the United States Commission on Religious Freedom for his significant help to advancing religious freedom in China and to ChinaAid.
The first speaker was Dr. Peter Lillback (right photo below), president of Westminster Theological Seminary where Bob Fu had been a student. He described Bob Fu as China’s Martin Luther King, then read from King’s famous “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” which focuses on the relationship between Christian faith and the cause of defending human rights.
- Afterwards, Judge John Carter (R-Texas), member of the House Appropriations Committee, gave his words of congratulations. He said jokingly that Bob Fu had made the right decision to come to Texas, and he gave high praise to his work, strategies and efforts. He said that the rule of law was a vital principle held by the United States, and that for China to become a great nation it needs to establish the rule of law and guarantee religious freedom. Finally he encouraged Bob Fu to continue in God’s work. In prepared remarks to congratulate ChinaAid on its 10th anniversary that were delivered to Congress, he said:
Mr. Speaker, I rise today to congratulate Rev. “Bob” Xiqiu Fu on the ten year anniversary of his organization the ChinaAid Association. This Texas-based organization has been at the forefront of the struggle for freedom and rights in China. ChinaAid is doing important work and I hope they will continue to flourish in their next ten years.
In 2002, only six years after migrating to the United States, Rev. Fu founded the ChinaAid Association to promote religious freedom in China and raise worldwide awareness of the ongoing and unjust persecution of religious believers in China. ChinaAid’s goal is to provide for the physical, legal, and spiritual needs of victims of human rights abuses and to be a “voice for the voiceless” in Washington DC and the capitols of the world.
ChinaAid is not only an effective voice for the voiceless, but is also working to make sure China’s human rights defenders are able to speech up against injustice. In recent years, ChinaAid has expanded its mission to support legal defense in religious persecution cases, academic research on the rule of law, and the training of human rights defenders.
Rev. Fu knows first-hand what it’s like to be persecuted by the Chinese government. In 1989, he was one of the student leaders in Tiananmen Square demonstrating for freedom and democracy. After the bloody crackdown, Bob became a Christian and led a house church while teaching English at the Communist Party School in Beijing. Considered a threat to the Chinese Communist government, Bob and his wife Heidi were imprisoned for “illegal evangelism” causing them to flee from China in 1996. He eventually migrated to the United States with the assistance of Members of Congress and then President Bill Clinton.
Pastor Fu is recognized as a leading expert on religious freedom and the rule of law. He regularly testifies before the U.S. Congress and has provided expert testimony before the European Union and the United Nations. Bob has also established a close working relationship with President George W. and Laura Bush, taking the first group of Chinese “house church” Protestant leaders to meet a sitting President in the White House.
The work of his organization is vital, it is effective, it is bipartisan, and it is necessary. Everyone here in Congress will agree, a future China that respects the freedom of speech, the freedom to worship, and the rule of law will be a critical strategic partner with the United States.
ChinaAid is working to ensure this future and that is why it should be congratulated today on its tenth anniversary.
Rep. Joe Pitts (R-Pa.), a member of the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission, said in his remarks that he appreciated all that Pastor Bob Fu and ChinaAid had done for persecuted Christians and others in China. In the book of Hebrews in Bible, chapter 11 lists heroes of faith who were persecuted and some of whom were martyred. Pitts said that these persecuted believers were his role models. He recalled that a few years ago, Pastor Fu introduced to him some persecuted Chinese house churches leaders, and these people who had been persecuted for their faith also became his role models. In the past 10 years, ChinaAid had amazing achievements in the areas of forced abortion, religious freedom, rule of law, etc., he said, and Pastor Fu’s persistent and arduous work was particularly demonstrated in helping Chen Guangcheng and his family to come to the United States. Noting that Pastor Fu’s efforts played a major role in the process, Pitts thanked Pastor Fu for that and said he believed that numerous people were thankful to him as well. Like other speakers, Pitts also observed that in the past 10 years, China has undergone tremendous changes, but its human rights abuse has become worse, which is why ChinaAid’s work was so important and why he wants to be a part of it. Finally, he congratulated ChinaAid on its 10th anniversary and the human rights lawyers who were being honored.
Rep. Beau Bolter (photo at left), a former ChinaAid board member, then introduced the recipients of ChinaAid’s “Defenders of Freedom in China Award”: Congressmen Chris Smith, Jim McGovern and Frank Wolf, and invited them to speak.
China Aid board member Scott McGraw (right photo below) then read the ChinaAid board resolution to give the Defenders of Freedom in China Award to these three congressmen: Frank Wolf, Chris Smith and Jim McGovern. The awards were presented by ChinaAid president Bob Fu and board chairman Joe Torres (photo below, second from left) to warm applause. Pastor Bob Fu praised these three congressmen for their great sacrifice in advancing human rights and freedom in China.
Former board member and Rep. Beau Boulter introduced the first speaker, an old friend of the Chinese people, Rep. Chris Smith of New Jersey, vice chairman of House Committee for Foreign Affairs and chairman of the Congressional-Executive Commission on China (photo at right below). He was greeted with warm applause.
Rep. Smith first thanked Pastor Bob Fu and ChinaAid, and then, to laughter from the audience, he suggested that ChinaAid could to move to New Jersey. He thanked Pastor Bob Fu and the many friends of the Chinese people, including some congressmen such as Joe Pitts and many other colleagues, who have been passionately fighting for human rights and freedom in China for many years. Like other speakers, he also described the continuous deterioration of the human rights condition in China, which he said was very disturbing. But he also expressed the hope that this was just the darkness before dawn. Smith said that there is only one way to improve human rights, democracy and freedom in China, and that is through people like Bob Fu and ChinaAid who work side by side with people in China, especially the faith community, to promote democracy and the rule of law with love. He echoed Sen. John Carter’s description of Pastor Bob Fu as a visionary strategist who applies the Gospel of Jesus Christ in a practical way, not for political correctness, but rather as a way to fight the oppression: to show love to the persecuted as well the persecutors. Smith said that when he, Rep. Joe Pitts and Rep. Frank Smith meet with Bob Fu, they always pray—they pray for the Chinese people, for house churches in China, which are being persecuted like the church in Roman times, and for all the oppressed people in China. He drew attention to a New York Times front page story in Monday’s paper of a forced abortion case in which an eight-month unborn baby was killed. In the accompanying photo, the mother, crying uncontrollably, looks at the dead, blue-black body of the baby, which Smith called the violence inflicted by dictators. Tyranny must be replaced by democracy, Smith said with great passion, adding that the exposure of this case was not random. Rather, it is an outcry and protest of many people in China, especially Christians, who are challenging the indifference of the United States, the indifference of the Obama government and the European Union, he said. Family Planning has caused serious social problems in China, Smith noted, in particular a gender imbalance. This is not just China’s problem, he said, but will impact the whole world. Smith called China’s “one-child” policy a massive crime against humanity and said that ChinaAid, led by Bob Fu, had exposed this barbarous policy to the world.
Smith recalled that it was Bob Fu who used his cellphone to contact Chen Guangcheng so that Chen could speak directly to two congressional hearings to let the whole world know of his experiences at the hospital and his wish to come to the United States. He thanked Bob Fu for his work, which he said had challenged his own indifference to and even partnership with tyranny. He said he agreed with Sen. Carter in h is belief that only through the rule of law can basic human rights be respected, which is exactly what ChinaAid is working for. Smith added that Bob Fu and ChinaAid also believe that the glory of Jesus Christ, the hope of salvation and ever-renewing forgiveness are what is needed in China, which has suffered under the brutal rule of a dictatorship for so long. Smith said that he and others are praying with unmatched fervency for the pastors of China’s house churches. Faith will change China, he said, and one day when China is free, people will remember the contribution of Bob Fu and ChinaAid.
Afterwards, Former board member and Rep. Beau Boulter introduced Rep. Jim McGovern (R-Mass.), co-chairman of the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission.
McGovern said what a great privilege it was to be part of the ChinaAid celebrations because he is a big fan of Bob Fu and admires all the ChinaAid staff. He expressed his appreciation for the teamwork and hard work of every person in attendance in making things happen. Noting that he knew many of those in attendance, though there were some new faces as well, he said that one thing was clear: everyone was there because they all care deeply about human rights. He said that he and the other House representatives Chris Smith, John Carter, Joe Pitts and Frank Wolf all believe that the United States should defend human rights. This is the focus of our foreign policy, he said, and when the United States discusses economic issues, the military and commerce, the issue of human rights should not be ignored. Nonetheless, McGovern said, as Rep. Smith just mentioned, too many times, for the sake of political convenience, honestly speaking, the leaders of both parties have ignored the problem of human rights for the sake of progress in other areas and to seek economic and strategic gains. But he warned, this short-sightedness in the long term will trap us, and we need therefore to pay great attention to the problem of human right early on.
McGovern expressed admiration for the courage exhibited by the award recipients who have made outstanding contributions to human rights and the rule of law in China. Calling religious freedom a basic human right, he said that every person has the right to peacefully practice their faith and publicly express their faith without fear, but the Chinese government has continued to suppress religious freedom and many other basic human rights. Marginalized groups are persecuted for their faith, including the Tibetans, Uighurs and Christians, he said, and too many Chinese people are deprived of their constitutional rights, including freedom of association and autonomy, because the Chinese government often persecutes citizens who exercise the rights granted them by law. McGovern said that in support of these human rights defenders and for the sake of basic human rights and the rule of law, he and others will not stop fighting and urging the Chinese government to deliver on the promises written in its constitution. Quoting the famous saying, “The only thing necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing,” McGovern cautioned that the battle is not easy and change will not come overnight. But he urged all good people, whether Republican or Democrat, conservative or liberal, to unite and speak up, to get people’s attention and never stop fighting. Someday, we will see beautiful results, he said, and the great work of ChinaAid is an encouragement. He expressed the hope that others in the United States would follow ChinaAid’s example.
Then Bob Fu announced that ChinaAid board member Tim Dunn (photo on the left) would confer the “Religious Freedom and Rule of Law Defenders Award” on prominent human rights lawyer Dr. Fan Yafeng, Dr. Teng Biao and Christian human rights lawyer Jiang Tianyong, each of whom would also receive $5,000. None of the three lawyers could come to the award ceremony because of a Chinese government travel ban, and the awards were received by three pastors on their behalf.
Then, through Skype, Bob Fu contacted Dr. Teng Biao in Beijing and asked him to speak to the audience. This is what Teng Biao said:
On February 19, 2011, I was grabbed by a group people who refused to identify themselves, blindfolded and forced into a vehicle. Two hours later, we arrived at a place where they locked me up. When surrounded by a wall of darkness, I could hear my heart beating. I could also hear a voice deep in my heart asking, “Is it worth it, what you are doing? Are you going to continue?”
What followed was 70 lonely days of detention. Someone was in the room 24 hours a day closely monitoring me. Occasionally, someone would come to interrogate me, it was always about the articles I’d written and the human rights cases I’ve handled. I could endure the physical abuse, but emotional torture was particularly agonizing. I was told: “Don’t talk about that law nonsense. Stop thinking of yourself as a lawyer or a college instructor and even stop thinking of yourself as a human being.” I was deprived of all contact with the outside world and couldn’t get any information. I had no information whatsoever about what was happening to my family, friends and the outside world. Since no official procedures were followed, my fate did not rest on any law or civilized rules. I was deprived of all my hopes for the future. I didn’t know whether this was a short-term imprisonment, long-term imprisonment or an eternal disappearance.
At this time, all I could do was pray. I had often attended house church gatherings and I had seen the prayers of many Christians. Many times I was moved, but I had never prayed myself. But when there was nothing in my life that I could count on, I found that praying was quite natural. Before that self-existent, eternal God, I began to pray. And miraculously, I quickly calmed down. I was no longer terrified, no longer anxious and no longer lonely.
To read the rest of Teng Biao’s prepared remarks, go to: https://chinaaid.org/2012/07/chinaaid-freedom-and-rule-of-law.html
When he finished, Rep. Smith thanked Teng Biao for his great testimony and courage and for speaking to the assembled audience. Noting that the Chinese government must certainly know about the Skype appearance, Smith expressed his great admiration, saying that when we speak up in this free nation, we will not be punished, but when you speak up, you may suffer because of it.
Sen. Beau Boulter then introduced another outstanding congressman, Frank Wolf of Virginia (photo at right), a longtime friend of the Chinese people and chairman of the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission.
Wolf opened by expressing his appreciation for being part of the celebrations and congratulating Bob Fu and ChinaAid on its 10th anniversary. He recalled that he and Congressman Smith went to Beijing just before the 2008 Beijing Olympics and tried to meet some house church believers, but all were arrested one by one before the scheduled meeting and the U.S. ambassador to China, Clark Randt, did nothing in response.
Wolf said that the Chinese human rights defenders who were to be recognized with awards were Chinese versions of Solzhenitsyn. Noting that Congressmen Smith and McGovern had both made good points, Wolf said that his own view was that the dictatorship of China would not last until ChinaAid’s 20th anniversary. His remarks were met with appreciative laughter from the audience. Wolf drew analogies with the Soviet Union and Romania. He said that looking back on history to 1986, not many people then thought that the Soviet Union would soon collapse and the CIA’s analysis concluded that the Soviet Union was very strong. He recalled that in 1986, the Polish ambassador to the United States who had defected to the Reagan White House, was a guest in his home and told Wolf and his children that the Soviet Union was very strong and would last for a long time and that the Americans did not understand it. Wolf also recalled a 1985 trip he and Congressman Smith took to Romania, where they saw how powerful the dictator Ceausescu was. Few people then thought that he would be toppled, but, Wolf said, a few years later, in 1989, dramatic changes came to Romania at Christmas time and the Berlin Wall also fell. He referred to David Aikman’s role in the Soviet Union and said, we can see that both the Soviet Union and Romania collapsed. He recommended the book Witness by Whitaker Chambers, a member of the Communist Party who left the party. At the time, Chambers thought he was leaving the winning side and joining the losing side because he thought Communism was ascending and the West was descending, Wolf said. But Chambers was wrong, he added, because people like President Reagan stood up and spoke out. Reagan told the Soviet Union to tear down the Berlin Wall, and in 1983 at a meeting in Florida of the National Association for Evangelicals, he called the Soviet Union the evil empire, which is what it was, Wolf said. Those dramatic changes give us hope today, he added.
Noting the widespread use of the Internet by people in China, Wolf said he thought that if the Internet had been around during Soviet times, the totalitarian government of the Soviet Union would have collapsed even sooner and Gorbachev would have moved even faster. He expressed his belief that freedom was coming, noting that this is the historical lesson again and again. Saying that the Chinese people have a great opportunity to gain democracy and freedom, he said he wanted to tell these human rights lawyers: I admire your courage. He said that if he were living in a totalitarian country, he didn’t know if he would have the courage to speak up through the Internet as they have, or go to meetings at the U.S. Embassy as they have, or stand up against the “one-child” policy as Chen Guangcheng did. “I don’t know,” Wolf said, noting that he had never gone through such trials, though he would like to believe that he would have done the same.
In closing, Wolf congratulated Bob Fu for his wonderful work and expressed appreciation for all those who have helped him. When ChinaAid celebrates its 20th anniversary, China is likely to be a nation enjoying full democracy and freedom, he said. At that time in China, Catholics will be able to worship freely, he added. Wolf also noted that some Catholic church leaders had recently been secretly arrested by the government, including bishops Congressman Smith knows. Noting that in the past six or seven months, more than 40 Tibetan monks and nuns have set themselves on fire, Wolf said, in 20 years Uighurs and Tibetans will also enjoy freedom and Christian house churches can worship openly and freely. China will become a great nation of freedom, he said, and again thanked Bob Fu and all the supporters of ChinaAid, who have done a wonderful work of love in speaking up on behalf of dissenters in China.
Pastor Bob Fu then announced on behalf of the Chinese Human Rights Lawyers Association the 2012 winners of the “Ten Best Human Rights Defense Lawyers Award,” each of whom receives a certificate and prize money. The 10 lawyers are:
1) Gao Zhisheng
2) Zheng Encheng
3) Wang Yonghang
4) Li Subin
5) Teng Biao
6) Jiang Tianyong
7) Liu Wei(female)
8) Tang Jitian
9) Li Heping
10) Li Xiongbing
In addition, a “Special Recognition” award went to Dr. Fan Yafeng who sent this short message of thanks:
Brothers & sisters:
Thank you for honoring me with the “2012 Religious Freedom and Rule of Law Defenders Award.” As a weak member of the body of Christ, I beg for your prayers, so that in Christ I might have more of the power of love, and in Christ I might have spiritual freedom. Allow me to express my feelings in a few words: wisdom is born of suffering; patience births faith; silence builds up energy; virtue is cultivated in humility; walk forward in love, and be transformed in the light.
Lawyer Jiang Tianyong also sent a letter to express his congratulation and gratitude. He said in his letter:
Congratulations on the 10th anniversary of the founding of the US-based China Aid Association! On this special occasion, I am deeply honored to win the first “Religious Freedom and Rule of Law Defenders Award” from China Aid Association together with Dr. Fan Yafeng and Dr. Teng Biao.
It is obvious to all that religious freedom and the rule of law in mainland China in the past few years have suffered obvious setbacks. The brutal suppression and persecution of Falun Gong practitioners as a group in the past dozen or so years still has not ended, and in many places, large-scale arrests are continuing. Independent house churches have never and still are not tolerated by the authorities. For many years, Protestants and Catholics have frequently been arrested and detained for crimes such as illegal meetings, gathering a mob to disturb public order, illegal business operation, etc. In recent years, the authorities often use the charge “utilizing a cult to undermine law enforcement,” which they had used for many years to suppressing Falun Gong practitioners, to persecute Christians, Catholics and other religious believers. In Tibetan areas, as the portraits of four top leaders entered temples, more Tibetans and monks have been arrested and the steady increase of self-immolations is causing world-wide concern. The Chinese authorities regularly trample on the very laws that they themselves have passed; the law can in no way guarantee the civil rights of the people. The situation for lawyers and other defenders of human rights is worsening.
Nevertheless, as a defender of human rights, I no longer feel alone. That’s because, more human rights defenders have stood up to face the suppression, and everyone has started to look after one another. Not only that, my clients and their families have also given me a lot of encouragement. The reason they are suppressed and harassed is because they have not lost their conscience and their faith in a society of general depravity. Some of them have lost their lives, some have lost their freedom and are imprisoned. Others are being tortured, and for still others, their families and children are being seriously harassed. Today, while I am honored to receive this award, I cannot help thinking of them.
Winning this award is not only the shared honor of those in mainland China who are working hard for the progress of religious freedom and the rule of law. What is more important is this: I sense that you and I—we—are facing and shouldering this burden together. And we are no longer alone in this world either. My friends: at this very moment, I feel your concern and your support. Of course, I hope more people will join us in facing evil; let’s work together so that all people can live free.
Following that, Bob Fu briefly gave an account of the experiences of the well-known Christian human rights lawyer Gao Zhisheng, who is currently imprisoned in Shaya prison, in a remote part of the far western region of Xinjiang. He then invited Gao Zhisheng’s wife Geng He to speak.
Geng He (photo on the left) said, “The Chinese Human Rights Lawyers Association gave the Best Lawyer Reward to Gao Zhisheng to recognize his persistent pursuit of and his sacrifices for the cause of China’s human rights. Gao Zhisheng firmly believes that human rights and rule of law will be realized in China and he dedicated himself to it, following his conscience and bringing hope to those persecuted by the totalitarian government and helping people without freedom to recognize the value of freedom. The persecution Gao Zhisheng has suffered is known worldwide.” She then described his current situation, including the fact that his family has not been allowed to visit him again following a prison visit in March. The family has phoned the prison more than a thousand times, and has also tried to contact other relevant government departments, to no avail. Geng He said she was pleased to see among the other award-winning lawyers many who were Gao Zhisheng’s close friends and partners, and now there are more and more human rights lawyers. She expressed the hope that more people would stand up in defense of human rights. She added that so long as Gao Zhisheng was in prison, she and her children were not free, and she thanked ChinaAid for the help Gao Zhisheng and their family have received.
Pastor Bob Fu announced that Gao Zhisheng and Geng He’s daughter had just been admitted to Baylor University. The audience applauded this news.
The Chinese House Church Alliance also sent a congratulatory message:
The Chinese House Church Alliance sends its congratulations to China Aid Association on the occasion of of its 10th anniversary, which was celebrated in Washington, D.C. on July 24.
Over the past decade, ChinaAidhas been committed to defending the persecuted house church in China and crying out on behalf of persecuted believers, and has achieved great results and influenced many countries in the world where there is no freedom of religion.
Over the past ten years, all of ChinaAid’s co-workers have toiled with one heart, investing great love and devotion. God will certainly remember you all. All the believers of the Chinese House Church Alliance will continue to offer up our prayers for your ministry. May the abilities and wisdom of the Lord Jesus Christ be granted you in greater measure. In the coming days and years, may God use you for even greater accomplishments in China and worldwide in the work of evangelization. May the Lord’s saving grace spread to the ends of the earth and the kingdom of Christ be among the peoples.
On the occasion of the 10th anniversary of ChinaAid, all the lay workers of the Chinese House Church Alliance express their warm congratulations and urgent intercession. May all those members of the Body and all the friends who participated in this celebration be covered by God’s blessing and grace.
China House Church Alliance July 24, 2012
George Washington professor Carol Hamrin, who worked on the U.S. State Department’s China Desk for 25 years, also sent a congratulatory message in lieu of her attendance at the anniversary celebrations. Her message said:
I will always remember that night in early 1997 meeting Bob and Heidi and baby Daniel at Dulles airport, although I have met many people there over the years. It was easy to identify Bob as we met for the first time … with his wide grin and eyes sparkling with excitement despite jetlag and travel weariness. That irrepressible spirit has become familiar to many, many others over the years since they first arrived in America.
Bob and Heidi’s experience in Beijing with persecution for their faith, and the uncertainty of life as exiles in Hong Kong before the handover, have given them a powerful sense of commitment to helping others who suffer for their faith and more generally, for the freedoms of expression and association. They have persevered through many twists and turns of the road, despite the cost in terms of income, professional advancement and family life. And throughout, whether in seminary or through the “God bless China”
Foundation or through China Aid, they have sought ways to bring God’s blessings to the Chinese people.
I admire their courage, appreciate their willingness to learn from any mistakes, and congratulate them on victories as they have continued to pursue their calling through these past ten years. I wish for them much wisdom and fruitfulness, as well as God’s provision for every need, in the future.
The entire luncheon award ceremony was held in a warm and lively atmosphere, and the audience was encouraged. The event lasted 90 minutes and ended at 2 p.m. with Doug Robinson, former ChinaAid board chairman, saying a prayer to conclude the day. Everyone solemnly bowed their heads, and ChinaAid’s one-day celebration and award ceremony concluded with the people saying “Amen.”