Statement of Blessings of Autumn Rain Church, Chengdu

China Aid Association

Statement of Blessings of Autumn Rain Church, Chengdu
Attack by Chengdu Religious Affairs Bureau and Police
Tuesday, May 6, 2008
In May 2, 2008, more than 40 people from Chengdu Religious Affairs Bureau and Public Security Bureau attacked our church meeting.  All believers were forced to register their names and taken photo.  Our leader was interrogated separately at the same time.  All personal belongs of believers were impounded under a charge of “illegal evangelism on suspicion”.  The church meeting was forced to cease.  We believe this action is not only lack of legal ground, but also a severe violation in the process of law enforcement.  There was outrageous and savage behavior in the event of law enforcement.  It brought serious damages to the avocation of harmony society by the central government, requirement of civilized law enforcement, social atmosphere and human rights condition which is greatly concerned worldwide before Olympic Games.  Especially our freedom of religious belief and person, our private property was invaded.

We believe this savage law enforcement event carried out by Chengdu Religious Affairs Bureau and Public Security Bureau is:
1) inconsistent with the 12th article of Regulation of Religious Affairs issued in year 2004, which is “collective religious activities shall be generally conducted in the registered location”;
2) inconsistent with both of 8th and 24th article of Regulations of Religious Affairs of Sichuan Province, which is “people have freedom to participate religious activities according to their doctrine, common rule and practice, freedom to have religious practice at home.” “collective religious activities shall be generally conducted in the registered location”.
3) contrary to the statement and promise of State Council to international society since 1997, which is “religious gathering such as prayer meeting, Bible study (Chinese Christians are used to call it house church meeting) with friends and relatives mainly is not required to be registered.”  The savage law enforcement involved central government in an unrighteous and faithless situation.
4) contradict to Premier Hu Jin Tao’s proposition “insist on people oriented, united with religious multitude” as his speech regarding religious issues in December 18, 2007 with his identity of General Secretary, the CPC Central Committee.
5) differ widely to the conversation of Ye Xiao Wen, Chief of State Religious Affairs Bureau in a liberal manner during the interview with Southern Weekend in March 2008.  He said “we supervise religious affairs only, not religion.”
We noticed a news release conference was held by alliance of some American Senators, members of the US House of Representatives and 12 international human rights organizations on May 1.  A strong denounciation was made to the human rights condition in China before Olympic Games, including situation in religious freedom.  As citizens with faith, we feel hurt to these criticism in connection with China, but more to the savage law enforcement by Chengdu Religious Affairs Bureau which provide evidence continually for certain criticism.
We have decided to:
1) make our opinion about this savage law enforcement known to Chengdu Religious Affairs Bureau;
2) give the fact and course of events to all house churches, all walks of life in the society and public opinion worldwide that in concern of religious freedom, together with our view on this matter.
3) wait for the decision of administration process from Religious Affairs Bureau with patience.
4) with a rightful and gentle attitude, in obedience to the rights and procedures we have according to the law to demonstrate our disagreement to any conduct of invasion to citizen’s religious freedom. a) Practice Administrative Reconsideration and Administrative Procedure; b) Complaint, law sue, petition to related departments including State Religious Bureau. c) Propose to Chengdu municipal officials, Sichuan provincial officials and National People’s Congress for individual case supervision, particular investigation, examination of transgression of Constitution and petition of citizen. d) Present criticism, opinion, complaint and ??, etc in public to the government and specific personnel who enforced the law.
5) with a heart to pray for the government and bless the nation, we as Christians will help the government in areas of civilized law enforcement, respecting citizens’ religious freedom, overcoming the fear of a pluralistic society with religious freedom in order to do the duty of good citizens.
The following is the factual description of this course of event:
In May 2, 2008, Chengdu Blessings of Autumn Rain Christian fellowship, a Christian house church had a meeting at Shuanglongyuan Vacation Village located in Jiujiang town, Shuangliu county of Chengdu city.  It was a retreat of the church during the holiday.  We prepared a six hour course of “worship in whole”, praise and worship, baptism of new believers, games and sports time, etc.  There are 11 families in the fellowship with 44 people in total including adults and children.  We planned to start from 10am in the morning of May 2 to 3pm in the afternoon of May 3.
At 15:44pm on May 2, about 20 people in casual wear broke in while the worship service without permission.  There were about 20 people outside in casual wear and police uniform from police station, Religious Affairs Bureau, also policeman who didn’t reveal their identities and community/team policing.  Two people from Shuangliu Religious Affairs Bureau and Chengdu Religious Affairs Bureau showed their credentials.  The leader of this attack was Hong Xiao, deputy director general of Chengdu Religious Affairs Bureau.  They claimed that there was an informant to report this “illegal evangelism on suspicion”.
The church leader Wang Yi showed the ID to them and expressed willingness for the interrogation.  Finally three church leaders Wang Yi, Chen Mao Jian and Chen Zhong Dong had a conversation for about half an hour with leaders of Shuangliu and Chengdu Religious Affairs Bureau yet another policeman who didn’t show his credential.  The conversation was aimed on the following issues:
1. What is the definition of a “religious gathering with family members and relatives” not required to be registered?
2. How to define the scope and size of “friends and relatives”?
3. What is the definition of “public place”?  Is the vacation village a public place?
4. What is the definition of “evangelism”?  Is the fellowship among church members the action of “evangelism”?
5. Are the Christians of unregistered house churches not the “citizen with faith” mentioned in Regulations of Religious Affairs and “Religious multitude” mentioned in the speech of Hu Jin Tao?

Three church leaders expressed their opinion to the questions above.
1. Our meeting is a gathering with “friends and relatives”.  The rented room of the vacation village is a private place; a believers’ meeting in a rented place is the same as meeting in home in the legal sense.
2. Our meeting is a fellowship among church members.  It is held in a close non-public place, which is not in connection with “evangelism” that is done in public and to nonbelievers.  Even if not to mention citizens’ religious freedom is under protection of the Constitution, our meeting is not illegal according to the Regulations of Religious Affairs.
3. Religious multitude has their meetings and holiday in vacation village is not only under protection of religious freedom, but also under protection of individual freedom, freedom of property and civil agreement.  No one either has right to detain citizen by force, or ordering them to leave according to the Regulations of Religious Affairs or Administrative Regulations of Public Security.

Other than in agreement with the Christians of house churches are “religious multitude” should be united with; deputy director general Hong Xiao had different opinion on these issues.  Three church leaders asked them to present their legal base on this attack and follow the procedures of law enforcement; and also expressed willingness to wait for the decision made on site.
During the time of this conversation, the rest of believers were under house arrest.  They were forced to register their IDs, taken photo and video tape.  There were outrageous and savage behavior in the event of law enforcement, such as not showing their credentials; threaten believers whom didn’t bring ID; tried to wrest personal belongings, etc.  After all that, some of the believers were threatened and forced to take the luggage from their rooms and leave.
A policeman who didn’t show his credential stood and framed in the doorway, to block the way when three church leaders wanted to go back to the believers after the conversation with leaders of Religious Affairs Bureau.
An hour later, we were told articles related to illegal activity would be confiscated for the time being under the charge of “illegal evangelism on suspicion”, according to the decision made by Religious Affairs Bureau in the meeting of all parties who carried out this law enforcement.  Three leaders had objection to the decision but willing to cooperate.  When officials tried to impound Wang Yi’s personal computer, Wang Yi didn’t accept it but willing to copy the files of the Bible course, worship songs and games, etc. for the retreat for further interrogation.  But three officials restarted the computer by force without permission of the owner.  It is a sever violation to property rights and privacy of the citizen.  Such conduct was stopped finally after it was found out.
The officials tried to confiscate the Bibles and some other publication legally published in China.  Church leaders didn’t agree because those were not related to the charge of illegal activity.  Citizens have right to carry, to read and to give out any publication legally published in any time and place.  But again we showed cooperation when they insisted to do so.
The articles that were confiscated are:
1. 10 garments for choir;
2. 12 copied hymn books;
3. 2 books, 10 Bibles;
4. 1 empty offering collection box;
5. 18 DVDs as prize for the games.

In addition to the above, teaching materials and copies, notebook of Wang Yi, etc. was taken away without permission and putting them in the list.
Half an hour later after all these, Wang Yi, Zhou Mao Jian and Chen Zhong Dong were interrogated separately.  They all acknowledged themselves are church leaders.  They also stated the meeting was a legal meeting and didn’t agree with the charge and decision.
Hong Xiao said he had done his duty, the confiscated articles would be returned after the interrogation completed.  But the police threatened the owner of the vacation village and asked him to terminate the agreement with us which was to force us to end the meeting and holiday in an indirect way.  We agreed to leave in order to avoid disputes with the vacation village.
All of us left there around 7pm the same day.  Those 40 officials left after assurance of our leaving.
Even we didn’t agree with the action and decision made by Religious Affairs Bureau and police, we always remained self-control, cooperate and obedience throughout the event.
Our Opinion
This is an illegal interrogation without legal base and carried out in contrary of legal procedures.
1. None of the policemen showed their credential to the informants.  Hong Xiao answered it was Shuangliu and Chengdu Religious Affairs Bureau the main body of this law enforcement in accordance of Regulations of Religious Affairs when Wang Yi asked the question.  But one of the policemen with casual wear was outrageous and savage throughout the event.  He refused to show his credential upon Wang Yi’s strong request several times.  We can’t regard him as a government official in legal sense.  We will consider announcing his personal information that we have publicly according to the progress of this case.
2. Throughout the event, none of the officials of Religious Affairs Bureau was able to show us the legal base of the attack, not even showing the Regulations of Religious Affairs and Chengdu Regulations of Religious Affairs.  All of the enforcement measures such as ID registration, photo taking, video taking, detention and confiscation, etc. were not carried out based on the regulations and law of the state, province or Chengdu city concerning religious affairs, which means it was a typical illegal administrative interrogation according to Administrative Law.
3. We didn’t receive any formal documentation of administrative decision and interrogation which should be shown to us.  There was only a handwritten list of articles that were confiscated without any signature of the officials, not to mention the approval from the authority of administration for this behavior of taking evidence.  As a result, confiscation was a administrative enforcement measure with no legal base.
Our Request
1. We urge Shuangliu and Chengdu Religious Affairs Bureau to handle this case with caution, to repeal the administrative decision made on site, to deal with those who carried out illegal law enforcement seriously, to return all personal belongings to the believers.
2. We request Hong Xiao, deputy director general to be the representative of all parties participated the event to give oral and written apology for the above mentioned illegal enforcement to all of our church members who were interrogated.
3. We request Shuangliu and Chengdu Religious Affairs Bureau to give us compensation on the loss of our retreat because of this attack, for we have made investment in finance, materials and man power.  We will send the list of damage and loss to Chengdu Religious Affairs at a proper time.
4. We request Chengdu Religious Affairs Bureau to submit their concern to State Religious Affairs Bureau to make the enforcement regulations of Religious Affairs Regulations come into existence.  Particularly in regard of “collective religious activities shall be generally conducted in the registered location”.  Are house church meetings held in a non-public place an exception? What is the definition of “friends and relatives”?  What is the meaning of “mainly”?  Is there a scope or size limitation for “a meeting with friends and relatives mainly”?  Are house church meetings allowed to conduct in rental private places?  All these questions shall be explained in a clear and legal format in order to prevent abusive use of discretionary right for local government.  It could not only prevent damage or provocation to the harmony relationship that has been building up between the government and believers of house churches, but also lower the conflict in our society and baneful influence in the international society.
5. We request a statement from Chengdu Religious Affairs Bureau whether the law enforcement carried out on May 2 was “law enforcement in alliance” with the public security bureau.  If the answer is yes, what are the legal bases?  If the answer is no, why were policemen part of the law enforcement?  We strongly question the reason why policemen took part in was for threatening in the interrogation to house churches, attempting to create violent cases of public security or even criminal cases to handle the relationship between the government and believers.  We extremely regret to point out this is one of the major reasons why Religious Affairs officials have not been able to have civil dialogue and communication with believers of Chinese house churches.
We believe not only the problems of unprofessional in law enforcement, indifference in legal sense of Chengdu Religious Affairs Bureau was exposed in this case, but also the deficiency in administrative procedures when enforcing Regulations of Religious Affairs.  We will wait for the conclusion and decision from Chengdu Religious Affairs Bureau for the administrative investigation; on the other hand we will consider taking administrative proceeding at a proper time for the course of illegal administrative enforcement concerning confiscation of personal belongings.  For further response and defense, we will wait, observe and keep an eye on the attitude of Chengdu Religious Affairs Bureau and other departments toward this case in love, patience and perseverance.  We reserve our rights to use every proper and gentle legal means to practice and protect our religious freedom as citizens with faith.
Our Desire
1. We suggest Religious Affairs Bureau invite representatives from house churches to have discussion and communication on issues of how to united with believers to make them play an important and positive role in society; how to promote understanding, respect and effective communication between the government and believers of house churches.
2. We suggest Religious Affairs Bureau hold a hearing to discuss issues on reformation of ways to deal with religious affairs; resolving problems in law enforcement activities; how to protect religious freedom of believers of house churches and registration of community etc.  To hold a hearing is a positive and lawful way to promote social progress in this field.
3. We suggest Religious Affairs Bureau to hire people who both know the law and Christianity from law circle to be legal and academic consultants; to hold seminars, trainings, discussions on issues of religious and law.  Leader of Blessings of Autumn Rain Wang Yi, who is also a lecturer from department of law in Chengdu University, is willing to undertake voluntary legal consultant for Chengdu Religious Affairs Bureau.  Our church is also willing to provide support in finance and man power for such seminars, trainings and discussion.
4. Since meetings of unregistered house churches are legal as stated in the Whitebook of State Council, Regulations of State Council and Sichuan Province, and to eliminate misunderstandings and barriers between religious affairs department and house churches, we would like to sincerely invite Mr. Ye Xiao Wen, Chief of State Religious Affairs Bureau, Mr. Zhao Lu, Chief of Chengdu Religious Affairs Bureau, Mr. Hong Xiao, deputy director general of Chengdu Religious Affairs Bureau and any officials from religious affairs department or other departments to visit or join our house church meetings of Blessings of Autumn Rain at your convenience.
All co-workers of Blessings of Autumn Rain Church, Chengdu
Wang Yi, Zhou Mao Jian, Chen Zhong Dong
Huang Wei Cai, Wu Mao Hua, Jiang Rong, Wang Hai Wen, Wang Wei
Chengdu Nationality and Religious Affairs Bureau
No. 6 Dong Sheng Jie, Chengdu City
Sichuan Province
Tel.  86-28-86637474
Fax.  86-28-86241503
[email protected]
Chief: Zhao Lu
Deputy director general:  Hong Xiao (2nd section)
Section Chief (Christianity) of 2nd section:  Wang Yi Chao
Tel. 86-28-86254293

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