October 16th, 2016.
■ Bob Fu is one of the leading voices in the world for persecuted faith communities in China. Born and raised in China, he and his wife were forced to flee religious persection, and were accepted as refugees in the United States in 1997.
In 2002 he established China Aid, a non-profit human rights organisation. with the purpose of exposing religious persecution, and to equip people to encourage the advancement of religious freedom and the rule of law in China.
Bob is one of those people who truly values the concepts of freedom, democracy, and religious tolerance. In 1989 he was a student leader at Tiananman Square.
EU Today was allowed a private interview with him, following his recent appearence before the European Parliament in Brussels.
“Religious persecution is not only directed at Christians. The Communist Party’s policy on religion covers all those that may be seen as encouraging independent thought, or that may been perceived as being not under the total control of the Chinese regime, and who are therefore seen as a a threat. If, for example, you are a Buddhist, and express loyalty to the Dalai Lama, if you are active then you will be persecuted. If you are a Uyghar Muslim in Xinjiang province, you could be treated as a seperatist and persecuted.
Of course many know about Falun Gong. They are a quasi-religious group that have been persecuted for practising their beliefs since 1999. At least 3000 have been tortured to death. Also, if you are Catholic, your loyalty to the Pope will make you a target. These persecutions date from the time of Chairman Mao.
Since Xi Jinping took power in 2012, Christianity has been singled out as a national security threat, and is the target of concentrated persecution. The government has forbidden students to celebrate Christmas, for example, and since 2012 over 2000 churches’ crosses were forcefully demolished or burnt with almost 100 churches destroyed.
Everyone is a suspect in the eyes of the Communist Party.”
I asked Bob what was it that made him make the decision that he, personally, had to take a stand against the status quo in China. Why him?
“I have always had a yearning for change. As a child I witnessed how the poverty and vulnerability of my family dictated our lives. My mother was a beggar from the 1950s to the early 60s, during Mao’s man-made ‘Great Famine’ (1958-62). During this period, 20 – 30 million people died, so she was a survivor. But she had to beg for food to look after my elder brother and sister. As a result of this hardship she contracted Lung disease, through having to eat leaves, the roots of trees, and many unclean things. Always she had to feed her children first.
I remember one day as a child in elementary school I returned home and learned that my mother was dying. My sister was crying, and so we went to the local doctor to beg for medicine to help her, but the doctor’s wife just closed the door in our faces. We felt that the doctor knew that we were so poor that we couldn’t pay anything, so he refused to rescue our mom.
It made me ask “how can I change this?” I thought that maybe money was the issue, so I wanted to become a millionaire; I thought to be rich is the solution.
“Then I went to High School, which was some 50 miles away, and so we could only go home once a week. We walked 50 miles there and back, it took the whole day. And when I got back home, I would hear the villagers complain that the electricity company only released the electricity after the villagers fell asleep, when they didn’t need it. They called it “electricity for the naked!”
I asked why, and I was told that it was because our village had no high ranking Communist Party connections, and no money to bribe the electricity company to provide power. So that made me change my mind about how to change China: I realised that being a millionaire might not be enough, to change anything you need to be a Communist Party official, so that is what I tried to do, to change things.
To actually take the first step to becoming an activist in China, or indeed any country ruled by dictatorship, is a dangerous thing. I asked Bob when did that moment come for him, when did he first become a political activist?
“It was when I got involved in the students movement in 1989, when the Tiananmen Square movement started. I felt I wanted to lead the movement, to make a real change.
I had been in university since 1987, I was a freshman studying English, and as such we were exposed to English literature, and so were already considered to be a little radical.
I was reading Time and Newsweek, and from our American teachers we were picking up some liberal ideas. I became a fan of Gorbechev, and I was planning to start a demonstration even before the student’s movement started. I even submitted a detailed plan to the Communist Party propaganda office – I was a little naive. My protest was to fight for an increase in teacher’s salaries, as they were treated so poorly, but then I was of course rebuked.
“When the Beijing student’s movement started I thought that change was on the way; really we could make a difference. Initially our platform was anti-corruption. At that time the corruption was already very messy, but of course compared to now it was small potatoes! And then we began to focus on issues ofdemocracy, freedom, and human rights. We made our flag, and we headed for Tiananman Square, and we had a whole day ahead of us.
” When we arrived it was a very exciting moment, an inspirational moment. There were tens of thousands of students from all over China; every university had its flag.
We all know of the horrors that were to ensue, but at the time the students were full of hope, with no idea of what was to come. I asked if there was a point at which Bob realised things were getting out of hand.
” At that point Zhao Ziyang, the Chief of the Communist Party, was showing symathy, but we had heard, indeed seen, that themilitary was being massed outside Beijing, indeed we saw them outside the city from the windows of our train as we arrived. Soon we heard that the tanks were coming into Beijing. At that time we did not believe that our People’s Government could send our People’s Liberation Army to kill their own people. We thought the soldiers may have rubber bullets, to scare us, but they were real bullets, to kill us.
“We had heard some reports from ‘Voice of America’, the only source of real information that we had at the time, along with Radio Asia and the BBC, that there was some sort of power struggle going on, and that martial law had been declared.
“I was lucky, or should I say blessed, that my girlfriend, now my wife, was taken very ill from drinking the unclean water that was supplied for us, and she was hospitalised. I had to comfort her and to look after her, and because of this we both escaped the massacre.”
After being at the very centre, and having survived such momentous events, I wondered how now, 27 years later, he sees the events.
“At the time of the massacre I had not yet become a Christian, I became a Christian only after the massacre, after the Communist Party took its revenge against me. They put me under interrogation, it was to become the most resentful and most hateful time of my life, and it was this period when, with the influence of our American missionary teachers, that I was to become a follower of Christ. Now in retrospect I see the events of 1989 as one of the most tragic episodes in Chinese history, when hundreds, mostly young people, were massacred.
“The Chinese government is trying to erase the memory: 80-90% of Chinese students today know nothing of the massacre. I think that one day the Communist Party must face justice, maybe along the lines of the truth and reconciliation process that took place in South Africa after the end of Apartheid.
” As a Christian I do now see the events in a different perspective. A redemptive perspective. In a way, this tragedy has become a turning point in Chinese history.”
And was it worth the sacrifice? The loss of so much life? Did the events of 1989 awaken the west to the true face of the Chinese Communist Party?
“The way in which the Chinese regime is being perceived by the liberal west – they are too quick to forget. The way the regime is going now is in some ways the way of Hitler’s Nazi Germany. They are controlling the churches, and appeasing the west. Even the UK and the US remain silent, but they should understand that they are facing evil. You can’t stay neutral. If you do, then you are an accomplice, a party to what is going on.
“When the Chinese President visited the UK, I was there in London. The Red Flag was flying everywhere, even outside Buckingham Palace, to me this is very scary.”
One of the main precepts of Christian theology is that of sacrifice. We think about Tianenmen Square, and about so many examples of repression and murder of people struggling for freedom. How much more do we have to sacrifice?
“A characteristic of human nature is that we tend to choose the easy route, the comfortable road. But Christ said, if you want to follow me you must bear your cross. The pastor who baptised me spent 16 years in prison. The pastor who married my wife and myself in Bejing spent over 22 years in prison, simply for his faith. Some pastors are serving life sentences.
“I hope the politicians will not easily forget all the blood that has been shed. I feel very sad sometimes to see the western politicians from the free world trying to justify their dancing with the wolf, wining and dining with dictators, and all of a sudden they forget how much blood there is under the red carpets that are rolled out for them. In these circumstances, I see no reason not to assume that these atrocities will happen again.
“Despite the imprisonment, the torture, the degredation, the pastors of China refuse to sway from the truth. Its estimated that by 2030 the number of Christians will reach 220-230 million. At that point, China will become the largest Christian nation in the world.”
China Aid website: www.ChinaAid.org
Follow EU Today on Social media:
Gary Cartwright is the publisher of EU today. He has many years of experience working in the EU institutions, and is a former consulting editor of the long established and highly respected journal EU Reporter.