China Aid Association
Letter to President George W. Bush
Dear President Bush:
How are you!
We are the daughters of Rev. Gong Shengliang (Gong Dali), founder of the South China Church. We extend greetings to you on behalf of our father Rev. Gong Shengliang, who is incarcerated now, and the entire congregation of the South China Church.
Ours is a Christian family for generations. Our great grandmother was baptized in the 1920s by an American missionary of the Baptist church in China. We are already the fourth generation of Christians.
Our father Rev. Gong Shengliang was born on May 27, 1952 in Zaoyang city of Hubei Province of China. He believed in Jesus Christ since childhood. He is the third generation Christian of the family and also a preacher. Since 1969 he has preached the Gospel of redemption through Christ in over a dozen provinces of southern China, cultivating new life, building up churches, training workers, and implementing salvation. As a result of his efforts tens of thousands of people have discarded idols and turned back to God, willing to serve the true and living God (1 Thessalonians 1:9). However, he himself was often chased, persecuted, and detained by the authorities for preaching repentance and forgiveness of sins in the name of Jesus Christ (Luke 24:47). He was often forced to rove about without a permanent residence. He could not go home even if he had one, nor could he till his land. He could not support his parents or rear his children. We have only seen him a limited number of times since we were born.
During the Cultural Revolution, father was often taken by local authorities for his faith in the Lord and preaching the Gospel. He was paraded through the streets, publicly denounced, and forced to wear a paper hat and a placard in front of his chest with characters written as: “Feudal superstition, lackey of capitalism, or counterrevolutionary,” etc. Other means of humiliation included bearing a waste bucket in front of his chest, forced detention in “study groups,” forced to bow his head with his arms stretched backward, crouching like a horse, tending cattle sheds, and having his household ransacked. Our great grandmother was also often seized to be disgraced by the same means, as well as being cursed as believing in “pigs” for believing in Christ. Even our little aunt was denied admission to high school by local authorities for believing in “superstition.”
Father occasionally came back to see the family in his early years of preaching. Later he could not return home as persecution intensified. Sometimes father wanted to see mother and his children. So he would meet us at a relative’s home or he would sneak home under the cover of darkness, at midnight, or in rainy or stormy weather and wake us to speak a few words and then hastily sneaked away. His constant lifestyle of escaping from persecution year after year had cast a shadow on our young hearts: “Why don’t we have fatherly love like other children have?” This kind of misunderstanding almost alienated us from father for a period of time.
In 1982 the “Three Self” churches were allowed to open. The other home churches suffered wholesale persecution in 1983. Dozens of heavily armed policemen came to arrest father. Fortunately father was preaching out of town and escaped the arrest. In the middle of June 1984 father was taken away by public security personnel when he was studying Bible teachings on salvation theology with the faithful in a gathering and somebody tipped the police. He was confined in detention houses in Tanghe, Henan Province, Zaoyang, Hubei Province, and other places for 15 months. Since father could not come home due to constant evasion of authority, grandfather missed him so deeply he fell ill and was bed ridden. Until his death on June 29, 1985, grandfather repeatedly called father’s name. His eyes never closed, eager to see his son for the last time. Right at that time father was confined at Zaoyang Detention House. Finally our elder aunt closed grandpa’s eyes with her hand. Our grandmother suffered a mental disorder due to long periods of government persecution and intimidation and died on October 29, 1986.
Father moved our home from the native village to another village of Zaoyang in 1991 for the sake of seeing mother and us more frequently. The new village was closer to my elder aunt and cousins and we could take care of each other and it was convenient for father to come back and see us. However, just as father came back for the first time after moving, he was spotted by the Party branch secretary of our native village and he reported to the police station (for a reward money of RMB ¥2,000). Just that night police came and rummaged through our home and the homes of all our relatives. Afterwards father could never enter this home again.
Though the road of serving the Lord and preaching the Gospel might be so arduous, father still advised my sister and me to embark on this road after we finished our education, since this was a meaningful, valuable road. My elder sister answered the Lord’s call in 1994 and attended the theological training of South China Church, thus launching her career preaching the Gospel. I answered God’s call in 1999 and joined the South China mission team after theological training. Father was not the only target of government persecution; we also became targets of official harassment after we made our career choice of serving the Lord and preaching the Gospel. My sister mailed a letter home from her mission field in Shandong Province in winter 1997. But the letter was held and seized at the local post office by the police before it ever reached home. In order to hunt down father, they not only tracked down my sister in her mission field, but also pursued me to my school and forced us to provide tips on father.
The public security personnel became frequent visitors of our home. Meanwhile, our home turned into the trap to capture father. Not only could they come and rummage through our home at any time, they also hired certain local reprobates to constantly monitor our home. The frequent police harassment and intimidation made mother collapse despite her strong will all along. She fell seriously ill and spoke deliriously in spring 1998. By that summer mother suffered a mental breakdown. She is still in a frightened state mentally and fears to see anybody now. When mother was hospitalized in Nanyang, Henan Province, father could not even come to visit her since plainclothes policemen were positioned in all our relatives’ homes and in the hospital waiting to catch him.
I was arrested on a tip by someone April 5, 1999 while studying the Bible with over 40 fellow students of the theological class. I was in custody at the Zhongxiang Detention House of Hubei Province for more than 5 months. Sister was also arrested that same year on her way from the mission field to the year-end retreat of the South China mission team. She had been held in detention houses of Xiaogan, Hubei Province and Taiqian, Henan Province for four months. By 2001 when our church underwent severe persecution we and mother could never return home.
Father was arrested August 8, 2001 by authorities of Jingmen, Hubei Province on charges of being involved in cult sects. He also became the first defendant in the case of the South China Church. He is now serving his sentence in the Hongshan Penitentiary of Wuhan, Hubei Province.
Since the day of father’s arrest, the relevant authorities did not serve notice on the family, and blockaded all information from leaking out. Even his fellow inmates in the same detention cell were prohibited family visitations for three months. We inquired as to his whereabouts around the place of his apprehension in Zhongxiang, Jingmen and others for more than four months and received no information of him. We didn’t know where he was detained or if he was still alive, and were deeply concerned about him since we couldn’t even send clothes and supplies to him. Not until the fourth month after his capture could we send clothes and supplies to him, assisted by the message of some kindhearted person. The following are eye witness narratives of the brothers and sisters who were arrested together with father and later released:
At that time our father was walking on the road. About 20 plainclothes policemen rushed toward him simultaneously from his left, right, front and rear and threw him on the ground, beating and kicking him indiscriminately with their fists and feet. Father spat blood from his nose and mouth on the spot. They bound his hands behind his back and shackled his feet. They covered his head with a black bag, threw him into a police car and pulled away. As father stated in his complaint, he was shackled as a death row convict without trial ever since the day of his arrest, even during the three days of his court appearance in December 2001. He had been bound by five different types of shackles for as long as 411 days until September 23, 2002 when he returned for retrial. On the day of his arrest, he was blindfolded and escorted overnight to the Public Security Bureau of Zhongxiang City and put into a tightly enclosed torment chamber. The authorities of Jingmen and a special case group of Zhongxiang blockaded all information from being leaked out. He was interrogated consecutively by case personnel and not allowed to even close his eyes for 72 hours. In the following months father endured all kinds of cruel torture including being shocked with electric shock batons, beaten while hanging, and carrying swords on his back, as well as intimidation, false commitment, finger printing under pressure, etc. He fainted many times and was awakened by having cold water thrown on him. He was hospitalized for a month after he developed a high fever and fainted and was rushed to Qiaotou Orthopedic Hospital of Zhongxiang City for infusion and emergency treatment. As a result father is afflicted with severe physical and mental injuries. More than once during interrogation in 2001, the arrested brothers and sisters of our church saw a photo of father sitting on the straw against the wall in a corner, while getting an infusion. They also saw father proceeding to the interrogation room, clad in rags and tottering along in shackles. Our entire family and the whole congregation of our church are tremendously shocked and saddened by the sufferings of our father, which have also left us with extreme mental and physical pain on our hearts!
On December 14, 2001 we engaged an attorney to defend for father. Only from the attorney did we learn that the case would be tried on December 19. After three days of trial the court did not allow our attorney to notify the family of the judgment. Instead, on December 29 at 9:00 PM, they suddenly came to the detention house to announce the judgment. Afterwards we found out from other sources that father had been sentenced by the intermediary court of Jingmen to a double death penalty on charges of “organizing and exploiting cult sects to violate law enforcement,” “intentional injury” and “rape.” Having heard the judgment, we insisted that father was done an injustice and wrongfully convicted. We continued engaging attorneys to pursue further legal procedures while preparing a coffin and burial for father. After receiving appeals from father and other victims of the South China Church, the Supreme Court of Hubei Province revoked the judgment for retrial on the grounds of “vague facts, insufficient evidence, and unlawful procedures.” Under the strong appeal and attention of the public opinion at home and abroad, the second trial was held October 9 and 10 of 2002 and father was re-sentenced to life in prison. The faithful of the South China Church arrested with father were respectively sentenced to life in prison, and terms of 15, 13 and 10 years imprisonment.
The authorities of Jingmen and the special case group of Zhongxiang painstakingly plotted the shocking case of the South China Church to achieve their goal of condemning our father to death and outlawing the South China Church. They implemented on all arrested South China Church faithful the policy of “life to those who confess and death to those who refuse” and adopted such techniques as coerced forced confession and enticed confession via deception and entrapment. They inflicted on all male faithful such torture techniques as shocks with electric batons, burning with cigarette butts and lighters, beating while hanging, immersion in water, carrying swords on their backs, forbidding sleep several days in a row, etc. and forced them to falsely confess that “Gong Dali planned and instigated the infliction of injuries.” They executed on all female faithful such torture techniques as beating while hanging, burning with cigarette butts and lighter, carrying swords on their backs, piercing finger nails with bamboo slips, burning their lips, breasts and lower body with electric baton, forbidding sleep several days in a row, and other torture methods to humiliate them and to force them to give false testimony as to “have had sexual intercourse with Gong Shengliang.” A female follower named Yu Zhongju was beaten to death during interrogation by the special case group of Zhongxiang on July 18, 2001 just because she refused to make false accusations. Yi Chuanfu had over 200 wounds on his body…. All the faithful arrested in 2001 escaped death with scars of brutal torture on their bodies.
We are writing these words with a bleeding heart, trembling hands, and weeping eyes. We are deeply concerned with the fact that our faith does not have due protection in our country. We regret certain authorities’ deep rooted hostility against the faithful masses. We also felt acute distress and shock at the severe humiliation and persecution suffered by father and the church faithful, since we know our father’s personality, his faith, and his devotion.
Our first meeting with father since his arrest was November 29, 2002. This meeting was the fruit of a 7-day fast by father and the imprisoned faithful. We met father via video telephone and we saw that he looked pallid and haggard and his hair almost completely gray, and he tottered due to weakness in his legs.
Father was transferred December 2, 2002 to Jingzhou Penitentiary of Hubei to serve his sentence. In the prison he was banned from practicing his faith, from reading the Bible, and from praying. Everyday he had to work continuously, excluding meal time, from 6 o’clock in the morning till 12 midnight or 2 AM the following morning, equivalent to an 18 or 20 hour work day. Father, with his injured body, had to endure high intensity labor, and felt light headed with each passing day and almost fainted and fell down more than once. His stomach disease recurred and there was blood in his stool. The prison implemented special double supervision on father. The first orders that father received upon entering the prison were: “Do not speak to anybody and do not answer anybody’s questions.” The following strict rules were posted on the prison section board: “No old inmates shall talk to new inmates, especially those new inmates who committed crimes related to church exploitation, and anyone who violates the rules will be severely punished.” Therefore father was deprived of the right to speak and could only shake his head or wave instead of speaking. The prison wardens not only forced father to write an ideological report every week, they also assigned two inmates conducting 24-hour close personal watch, monitoring, tracing and reporting on his every move and act. He was even prohibited from using the public latrine just steps away. To make things even worse, the wardens instigated other inmates to speak to father on purpose in late June, 2003. Father, who had been banned from speaking to other inmates for 7 months, could not answer them in obedience to the prison orders. As a result he was brutally beaten to the extent that he suffered incontinence and there was blood in his stools and urine. His left ear was beaten bloody and he lost his hearing. He was left unattended with only a faint breath.
When we learned about the news of father being beaten, we felt extremely upset and distressed, and deeply concerned about father’s circumstances and life. Under the attention and concern of various personages of society father was transferred to the Hongshan Penitentiary of Wuhan, Hubei on July 15, 2003. We thought that father’s conditions would improve after transferring to another prison. However, father was injured from falling down and his diseases recurred frequently without prompt treatment in 2004. So we as daughters are even more concerned and anxious about our father’s health, his diseases, and his plight in prison. We cannot fall asleep at night and are at a loss as to what to do.
What makes us even more concerned about father was the fact that in the Hongshan Penitentiary he is regarded as a “terrorist who could explode at any moment” and as before there are still two inmates assigned to conduct 24-hour monitoring. As a result father seems being locked in a “prison inside a prison” and treated as a “criminal among criminals.” This amounts to a great humiliation on his personality as a Christian. Moreover he is rigidly deprived of the right to practice his faith in this prison. “Only faith in ideology is permitted, not faith in action. No preaching Christianity is allowed. No talking about personal belief to anybody is allowed.” Personnel of the Bureau of Justice and prison wardens tried more than once to brainwash father by asking him to relinquish his faith, acknowledge his guilt and confess to the charges that the type of Christianity he believed in is a cult. Each time we came for a visitation, the wardens would warn us “not to talk about faith and church. Otherwise you would be banned from visitation.” At a visitation in 2004 when we talked about getting legal counseling from the Web and family matters, Section Head Xie of the Prison Administration supposed that we were talking about church and faith. He rushed over grabbing the microphone from our hands and warned repeatedly, “Gong Dali, beware what you are saying. I have been monitoring.” For this matter we wrote a letter on July 1, 2004 to Chief Warden Sun of the Hongshan Penitentiary describing father’s situation and our dilemma and requests regarding visitation.
Respectful President Bush, we are a Christian family for generations. Our father is not only a preacher; he is also the pastor of the South China Church. Why is it wrong for him to talk about faith and church? But it is not permitted in our country! Father had endured long periods of persecution preaching in the fields unable to go home. Today he is still being restricted in the prison of China. Faith is the only power to sustain father in his sufferings. The second coming of Jesus Christ is what father has been hoping and pursuing. Father has nothing left after persecution and imprisonment except his faith, yet the prison authorities want to deprive him of his faith. Even though he is reduced to such a sordid situation, father still advises his sister, our junior elder aunt, to devote her two children to service of the Lord in church, because he sees this as a meaningful way of life. Our father, with such a staunch heart, always encouraging others to live on well, suddenly asked us in one visitation about the coffin that we prepared for him while he was in Jingmen Detention House. He added that if he could not be transferred to another location, the family would only see his corpse. This makes us more concerned about father’s situation.
In April 2004 when father was assigned to work mid-air above the ground in the prison mess hall, he fell and injured his back and legs. Father has been left with severe internal injuries having to endure more than three months of brutal torture, 411 days of wearing cold hard handcuffs and shackles, winter chills and 16 months of living in damp detention cells without timely provision and clothing. Father incurs severe rheumatism causing a painful, numb, and stiff condition in his legs. Still he had to work at a height without any protective gear, and fell due to fatigue. What made our heart ache was that he did not receive any treatment until the next day when we came to visit, and he was dragged out by two inmates for the visitation. When we requested that father be treated, the wardens said that the fall was caused by his absent-mindedness while immersed in reading the Bible everyday. We will never forget December 13, 2004 the visitation day. That was the day when God extended His grace to sustain father and us in the most difficult day of his life. When we registered for visitation the warden told us: “He (father) does not want to meet family.” When we came to Section Head Xie, he said: “We have suspended his visitation.” Hearing different versions, we began to feel worried and frightened not knowing what had happened. After our repeated earnest requests they agreed that we could come again on December 23 for a visit. On that day we came and saw father still in extremely weak condition. We asked, “Why didn’t you want to see us?” Father said: “Not that I don’t want to see you, to see my dear family at the last moments of my life.” Then he told us what had happened. His stomach disease suddenly broke out on November 29 and he vomited continuously and couldn’t eat or drink anything for nine days by December 8. He requested medical treatment on several occasions but was ignored by the wardens. When father sensed that he could not cross the threshold of life he wrote a letter appealing for medical treatment. Section Head Xie didn’t believe and even accused him of pretending sickness. Father said, “It is up to you to believe me or not, but you cannot insult my integrity. You can go ask the two ‘bodyguards’ you dispatched to watch over me.” Only then he was given 5 tablets of stomach medicine. When we came to visit on December 13 father had not eaten or drunk for 14 days and was lying in bed unable to move. When he heard that we came to visit, he asked the wardens to permit him to be carried out by other inmates to the door of the visitation room and he himself would walk up to us so we would not worry about him. But his request was rejected by the wardens. After that father hadn’t eaten or drunk for 15 days lying in bed without movement at all. The inmates in the same cell constantly probed his nostril for breath to make sure he was still alive. They thought that he would not survive this time. After repeated requests from father in his critical condition, the wardens finally took him to the Army Hospital of Wuhan. The doctor there said, “He is so critically ill that were he not brought in on time, he would€¦.” The doctor ordered the head nurse to take charge of treatment of father. As father later said, “Had it not been for the God that I believe in, I would have died.” Afterwards father proposed to have a thorough examination and further treatment in a regular hospital at his own expense, but was flatly refused.
In a visitation in September 2005, father mentioned that he often felt short of breath and aching in his stomach and that the medicine we brought to him had expired and he would not take for fear of side effects. For this reason we repeatedly requested the wardens take father for an examination. But they refused and said the examination had been done when father was sick in December 2004. We deeply regret the attitude of the wardens, and feel profoundly anxious about father’s health and his untreated diseases. We are concerned that father may suffer the same recurrence of diseases as the one in December 2004 threatening his life. Father’s health has become the major concern for the family and the church. Apart from looking up toward the God who has saved father from death time and again, what else can we do for father?
Father had a resection due to perforation of the stomach on September 5, 1990. Considering the seriousness of his disease, the doctor asked him to come back three months later for further treatment. But father has not been able to do that. Today father’s imprisonment, has incurred internal injuries as a result of torture and devastation and such other diseases as rheumatism, back and leg pains, asthma, tracheitis, coughing, etc., which have not been treated and have worsened so father feels unbearable pain in his stomach.
Father has nowadays been deprived of the civil rights that an imprisoned citizen deserves. He has filed many complaints, yet these have been seized on the grounds that they contained prohibited words such as “believing masses,” “South China Church,” “complain to the People’s Congress,” etc. We, the family, engaged an attorney for father in 2005. The attorney came to the prison to visit father twice in January and March, but was denied entry at the gate each time. The reason given for refusal was that “he (father) did not file a complaint.” When the attorney came to the Prison Administration of Hubei Province, he was escorted out on the grounds that “the higher authorities (of the state) have issued secret documents” and “he (father) did not file a complaint.” When the attorney requested to see the documents from the higher authorities, the administration officials said, “If we show you the documents, we would be divulging state secrets.” Our attorney had no choice but to request they write a note certifying that he came to the administration as a reply to the family. But one official said, “If I wrote you a note, I would be fired.” So far the attorney has not been able to meet father.
Our worries seem to have no end. Once after a visitation, the wardens comforted us saying, “His (Father’s) work load has been reduced a lot now, and his health has been getting better and he even gains some weight.” Another warden said, “We are concerned that he might develop high blood “pressure, heart disease, or diabetes and the like with his age, and may at any time.” There are also some kindhearted people reminding father to “wash your cup, bowl, and chopsticks before eating and drinking.” Father said, “It is of no use for me to guard in this respect.” Right now everybody in the penitentiary beside the two assigned “bodyguards” is fixing his or her attention on father to find some opportunity to curry favor with the authorities. Apparently father is in such a precarious situation judging from all these symptoms.
For example, at one visitation party on December 21, 2005 I noticed that father was not dressing warm enough so I approached him and pulled his sleeves. One of the wardens saw that and rushed over shouting: “What are you doing?” Immediately all the inmates and their families at the party turned their heads and looked toward us. I was really at a loss as to what I, as a daughter, did in taking care of my father has to do with them?
The last time we saw father was January 18. We asked father about his recent health. He said, “I feel extremely short of breath and suffer stomach pain and don’t want to eat. The little food I had to eat makes my stomach ache. My tracheitis and asthma also recur often and I cough a lot. My back hurts, especially when coughing.” We asked whether he had received the Christmas card and letters that we sent him. He said, “I received only two pieces,” and added that he received very little mail from us for quite a long time. We don’t know where the many letters and cards sent to father from family, relatives, and friends at home and overseas have gone. We haven’t received mail from father for more than a year. Later we requested to have lunch with father. The registration staff told us to ask Section Head Xie of the Prison Administration. So we came there but didn’t see him from 9 am to 12 noon. After lunch time we saw the registration staff come with registration forms for approval. So we asked them to help us telephone Section Head Xie. But they seemed reluctant to grant us this favor and said, “We do not approve your request.” And one female warden on duty in the Prison Administration said, “We can process other inmates’ requests, except Gong Shengliang. He is a critical inmate and must be processed by Section head Xie.” We really don’t understand why is it still so hard for father, who has been imprisoned for almost five years, to be approved for a family lunch together?
As daughters we feel heavy hearted and worried, not knowing what to do and have nowhere to turn for comfort. We’ve been worrying during many sleepless nights about all the physical, spiritual, mental, and circumstantial distress that father has suffered. We hope that the prison administration takes care of father’s health and worry that father’s diseases may threaten his life. We are worried that some day we might not be able to see father again. Our family has already been broken as a result of father’s sufferings. And that would bring us irrecoverable pain forever.
We’d like to mention one episode. At a visitation in October father told us that he read from the newspaper about your Sunday worship at the Gangwashi church in Beijing, and the message you left there, “May God bless Christians of China.” He was very delighted and wanted us to extend his appreciation to you.
Our entire family earnestly hopes that wrongfully convicted father can be released from prison ahead of time so that his devastated body can receive prompt healing.
What is written above is the description of merely one person under persecution. In China there are untold numbers of preachers and their families and believers of Christ who are suffering from similar or even worse persecution. We hope that the experience of our father can arouse the attention of the peace-loving friends from all over the world to express concern over the persecuted Christians in China, and to urge the Chinese government to denounce discrimination and prejudice against the home churches of Chinese Christianity and release Rev. Gong Shengliang our father, as well as all the preachers and believers imprisoned in various parts of China.
May the love of God, the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ and the inspiration of the Holy Spirit be with you and your family! May God bless you and the American people! May God bless the works in your hand! Amen!
Daughters of Gong Shengliang
Founder of the South China Church
January 19, 2006
China Aid Contacts
Rachel Ritchie, English Media Director
Cell: (432) 553-1080 | Office: 1+ (888) 889-7757 | Other: (432) 689-6985
Email: [email protected]