China Aid Association
Statement to the US Commission on International Religious Freedom
Hearing on Religious Freedom in China
Dirksen Senate Office Building, Room 538
January 31, 2007
Xiqiu “Bob” Fu
China Aid Association
Dear Honorable Commissioners and guests,
Thank you very much for inviting me to testify before this important Commission. Yesterday, we issued our first annual report on persecution against the Protestant House Churches in China from January to December 2006.During the period covered by the report, the Chinese government continued its general crackdown on unregistered house churches, but the strategies used have changed to some degree with the shifting domestic and international situation.
Reported incidents of raids on house churches have decreased in 2006 as compared to previous years. This tendency became clear in the second half of the year. Another development is that, although Public Security Officials still held house church leaders detained in the raids for extended periods, most church members were released after short interrogations on the spot. This strategy effectively decreased the number of arrests, but had the effect of transferring the pressure onto the church leaders, who were sometimes held for weeks or months. There is clear evidence that a number of these leaders were tortured and physically abused during the time they were held.
CAA has compiled a set of statistics outlining, the number of arrests, the number of detentions (for over 10 days), and the number of imprisonments (for more than a year) that have been reported to them by reliable sources during 2006. Given the population the geographical size of China as well as the desire of Public Security Officials to keep such arrests hided from the outside world it would be impossible to measure the exact number that have occurred. As an example of this difficulty it should be noted that since these statistics were compiled an interview by an RFA reporter (http://www.rfa.org/mandarin/shenrubaodao/2007/01/16/zongjiao/) with a Christian lady detained named Liu Xiaoduo from 16th -17th January, has revealed that she came in contact with a group of more than 50 Christians during her detention. They had been arrested as a result of their Christmas celebrations on the 23rd and 24th December. The presence of these Christians may never have been known if it was not for this interview.
These statistics should also be viewed in light of the fact that much of the Chinese House Church understandably remains hidden from the authorities.
According to CAA sources alone, the government detained over 600 Christians in 2006. This figure is less than 2005 when more than 2000 arrests were reported. This reflects the Public Security Officials new tactic of interrogating church members during a raid rather than officially arresting them.. Most of the reported detentions in 2006 were church leaders.
The three provinces where the most arrests took place were Henna, Zhejiang, and Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region (XUAR). The protestant house church movement is particularly strong in Henan and Zhejiang provinces.
By comparison, the local officials closed and demolished more house churches in 2006 than 2005. Three house churches were demolished in Zhejiang province in 2006, including the large ongoing building of a house church in Xiaoshan. House church demolitions were also reported in Jilin and Fujian provinces. The issue of the government’s occupying the church property in Tianshui, Gansu was settled through a compromise by the church. In addition it was reported that some churches in Guangdong province, Shandong province, Anhui province, Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, and Shanghai were forcibly closed.
A new tendency was to target house church leaders with criminal accusations. Pastor Cai Zhuohua, a house church pastor in Beijing, was convicted in November 2005 of “illegal operation of a business” for printing and giving away Bibles without government authorization. Two other house church pastors, Liu Yuhua and Wang Zaiqing, were also reportedly detained and sentenced under the same accusation in 2006. Mr. Zhang Rongliang, a leader of the China for Christ house church network in Henan province, was sentenced to prison for seven years and six months under the charge of “illegally crossing the national border and fraudulently obtaining a passport” in June 2006.
Another new development was banning house churches as cults; repression of unregistered Protestants for involvement in cults became more prominent in mid-2006. After being classified as a cult, House churches in Langzhong city, Sichun province were severely persecuted in 2006. However, the case of the controversial “Three Grades of Servants” sect is not included in our statistics.
The Chinese government continues to maintain strict control over the state-controlled Three-Self Patriotic Movement (TSPM), which leads the registered Protestant church in China. For example, the local Religion Administrate Bureau evicted Pastor Hu Qinghua, a pastor of a TSPM church in Pinglu, Shanxi, in June 2006.
The Chinese government also continues to restrict relationships of unregistered Chinese Protestants with fellow believers abroad, in contravention of international human rights standards. Meetings between house church leaders and Protestants visiting China to conduct theological or organizational trainings were raided in Henan province, Yunnan province, and Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region (XUAR). Officials have banned some house church leaders from traveling abroad, including the famous legal scholar Dr. Fan Yafeng. Senior government officials continue to incite suspicion of overseas Christians by accusing them of religious infiltration intended to weaken China.
As mentioned already the above lists of persecution in the different provinces of China from January 2006 to December 2006 are by no means complete because of the difficulties obtaining details.
According to CAA sources alone, the Chinese government arrested 651 Christians in 17 provinces in 2006, among which about 100 were detained more than 10 days, 18 Christians were sentenced to imprisonment for more than 1 year, 4 churches were destroyed, 4 were closed. The many church members who went through the traumatic experience of being interrogated during a raid are not included in these statistics.
Most of the reported detentions and imprisonments were church leaders. Teaching and leadership training gatherings are viewed with particular hostility by the government whose aim is to control the indoctrination of new generations of Christians.
In comparison with 2005, local officials closed and demolished more house churches in 2006. Three house churches were demolished in Zhejiang province in2006, including a large on-going building of a house church in Xiaoshan. House church demolitions were also reported in Jilin and Fujian provinces. The issue of government’s occupying the church property in Tianshui, Gansu province was settled through a compromise by the church. It was also reported that some churches in Guangdong province, Shandong province, and Anhui province, Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, and Shanghai were forcibly closed in 2006.
In addition to arrests, interrogations and the destruction of churches, homes of Chinese Christians have been searched, crowds of peaceful protestors have been charged with electric shock batons, and access to Bibles and teaching has been restricted. It is impossible to measure the wider effects of this intimidation and restriction.
The changing strategies and tactics of Public Security Officials; interrogations on the spot, accusing church leaders of criminal activities and banning protestant movements as cults suggests that the Chinese authorities are becoming increasingly concerned about appearing more tolerant of Christians in the eyes of the international community. However there seems to be less evidence of a genuine change in their broad policy.
The province-by-province report shows that Zhejiang and Henan provinces, where the Protestant House Church movement is particularly strong, had the worst persecution against House churches in the past 12 months. 246 pastors and believers were arrested in 9 raids from January 2006 to December 2006, 3 churches were destroyed, 10 were sentenced to imprisonment, and many of the arrested were abused while detained. After the raid on March 13, 2006 in Wen County, two arrested Christian ladies, ages 72 and 21 respectively, were forced to stripe off their cloths during the interrogation. A disabled Pastor Li Gongshe was severely beaten breaking one of his ribs.
Now I want to make a few points by analyzing the Zhejiang church
In 2006, from the north to the south of China, there occurred 4 important religious cases that require our attention. These 4 cases not only reflect different categories of religious affairs, but also represent to us, in their respective and different dimensions, the Chinese government’s fundamental attitude to, and policies concerning, the treatment of Christian house churches.
The Heilongjiang Court secretly executed three leaders of the “Three Grades of Servants” church; the Beijing government twice rejected the registration applications of a certain house church on condition of retaining church personnel and financial independence, and required that it join the Three Self church; Pastor Wang Zaiqing of Anhui was sentenced and imprisoned on charges of “illegal business operations” for printing and distributing Christian books and journals; the Zhejiang government deployed 3,000 armed policemen and public security persons to demolish the church buildings of the Dangshan Church of Xiaoshan District for what it claimed was “illicit use of land and illegal building”; it also convicted 8 church leaders of the crime of “instigating violent resistance against law enforcement” and inflicted criminal penalties on them.
The Xiaoshan Religious Case
This report attempts to use the “Xiaoshan Religious Case” as an example to analyze its essential causes and characteristics for the purpose of exposing the merely the tip of the iceberg in the state-religion relationship in China:
Zhejiang is one of five provinces in China that have the largest Christian populations. Within the province, Wenzhou and Xiaoshan rank at the top in terms of numbers of Christians. Xiaoshan, being the directly administered district under Hangzhou, the capital city of Zhejiang, boasts over 100,000 Christians. Among them 95 percent belong to the house churches. This fact should provide the general background for the forced demolition of the house church buildings since 2003 that have been frequently happening all over Zhejiang, especially in Xiaoshan.
What is remarkable is that the leaders of the Xiaoshan house churches, in peaceful protest against the government’s demolition of churches and its rejection of church construction applications, have, since 2003 adopted the time consuming, effort consuming, and money consuming strategy of “re-construction and rush construction” instead of filing lawsuits. This tug of war in human and material resources not only poses a grave threat to the authority of local governments, but also constitutes an enormous obstacle to the goal of fostering Christianity.
The “Lu Fu” incident of Xiaoshan in 2004 is even more noteworthy. Conflict arose between churches that conducted worship and evangelization in public venues, and the government which interfered. Thereafter the church leaders and the local government negotiated and reached compromise. However, in the Xiaoshan Religious Case of 2006, the officials of provincial government personally took up the case and asked Wang Weiliang, one of the defendants, whether organizations from overseas participated in the “Lu Fu” incident, and whether it was a deliberate confrontation against the government. The police also indicated in interrogation of Wang Weiliang that his trial would be in retaliation for the two major incidents of “Lu Fu” and “Dangshan Church Buildings”.
The trigger to the Xiaoshan Religious Case of 2006 was the altercation between the church and the government because of the inactivity of the Xiaoshan District government (the government appropriated church properties and the price was unfair, and citizens’ legal application for permission to use land was rejected by the government without giving proper reasons); and the intensification of the conflict between the church and the government because the District government failed to fulfill or delayed in fulfilling its legal obligations (i.e. providing suitable sections of land for church construction). Under the current legal system in China, the land in urban areas belongs to the state; and the use of and planning for these lands must adhere to strict administrative guidelines; meanwhile the venues for religious activities must undergo the dual procedures of application and registration by the religious organizations that have already been registered on record and obtaining administrative permission; therefore, it is extremely difficult, if not impossible, for the house churches that have refused to register with the government to build their own churches. In the end, the nature of the legal system was in essence the cause that compelled the house churches of the Xiaoshan Religious Case to go “against the law”.
In the Xiaoshan Religious Case of 2006, the demolition of church buildings involved local governments (Township, District, and City) and at least 9 government ministries and agencies at the central level with the deployment of 3,000 persons; whereas the conviction and sentencing of church leaders further involved local public security, prosecution, the court, and the State Security agencies, the Beijing Judicial Affairs Bureau and Xinhua News Agency. A rural “illegal building” case attracted the enforcement and coordination of many government agencies; a simple “rush construction” action entailed such severe charges and penalties; and isolated skirmishes involving citizens armed with only towels and spring water bottles against 3,000 armed policemen was interpreted as “violent resistance against law enforcement”. This kind of tragedy can no longer be interpreted as normal government administration, nor can we tolerate Christian house churches being targets of government persecution and interference.
The paradigm of demolition and construction has become the unique method by which house churches of Xiaoshan District protest against the government and strive for religious freedom—by building independent churches to worship God freely. This is also a means of resistance against the administrative roadblocks and regulations that restrict belief and deprive humans of true religious freedom. These regulations have made what is called, “instigation and sedition of violent resistance against law enforcement,” inevitable. Since there is no Constitutional lawsuit and judicial review, the Chinese government arbitrarily convicts by criminal law, and imposes penalties on citizens who peacefully struggle against the unconstitutional administrative actions that violate the right of participation, the right of property, and right of freedom of religion. The government wages a campaign to intimidate their supporters and sympathizers in an effort to prevent similar events from happening again. This is why the government handled the Xiaoshan Religious Case of 2006 in a different way than it did in 2003.
The outcome of 4 of the 8 defendants being sentenced to term imprisonment and the remaining 4 with suspension was a compromise that the Chinese government made between regulating Christian house churches and responding to the international community, especially pressure from the U.S. This manner demonstrates the significant positive effect the international community can have, especially U.S. diplomatic protests; on the other hand, it also exposes the limitations of such effect. After all, the Chinese government is bound to achieve its goals of regulating house churches in the name of the “order of law” and punishing those non-violent, non-cooperative Christians. And it is precisely the support from the international community, especially from the U.S., that makes the Chinese government use the Christian house churches as the scapegoats through whom the U.S. is accused to restage the kind of fundamental changes similar to those which took place in Eastern Europe in the late 1980s. .
Based on this report and our analysis, I have several recommendations:
· The Commission should continue to recommend to the Bush Administration to put China as a “CPC” country;
· The Commission should continue to request to visit the Chinese religious prisoners;
· The Commission should recommend the State Department to invite key scholars and religious leaders of the non-registered religious institutions to hold regular educational meetings with the visa officers and other related consulate officers on religious freedom issues in China in order to remove obstacles for the non-registered religious leaders to visit US ;
· The Commission should recommend the US Embassy and the Consulates in China should set up quarterly meetings with non-registered religious groups and individuals in the Embassy Consulates in China;
· The Commission should recommend the senior administration officials to attend religious services in both the non-registered and the registered religious institutions when they visit China;
· The Commission should use your influence to urge the US firms who have factories in China to open chapel rooms for religious believers for their employees in their workplaces;
· The Commissioners should use your influence to urge the US business leaders to discourage further investment in the provinces like Henan and Zhejiang which have the worst persecution record and encourage more investment in those provinces where less or none religious persecution recorded.
 During the same year, house church buildings were demolished in Changchun, Jilin and Fuzhou, Fujian; also house church buildings were demolished in Shaoxing and Ningbo of Zhejiang, respectively.
 For example, (1) Deqing County of Zhejiang closed 392 temples and 10 small churches in the name of “cleaning up and regulating illegal religious activities” in September and October 2003. Some of the closed temples and churches have already been removed or demolished; among the 10 closed small churches, 4 have already been demolished. (2) The “Tudusha” church of Hengpeng Village, Nanyang Township, Xiaoshan, Zhejiang was demolished jointly by the Court of Xiaoshan District and the Township government on June 26 by reasons of non-registration and “illegal building”; on September 18 the Township government, the Branch Bureau of Public Security of Xiaoshan District and the Administration of Religious Affairs again demolished by force the reconstructed church building. The government dispatched bulldozers and demolished the church of Sha’ao Village, Dongtou County, Wenzhou City of Zhejiang on July 15, and demolished on July 16 the civilian residence where the house church of Lingshang Village, Damen Township of the same county met; the local government repealed the meeting place of a house church with over 200 participants of Yuanjue Village, Dongtou County and forced them to join the Three Self church in early July. The house church building of Kanshan Township was demolished on October 31. And Liu Fenggang, the Christian who had reported the Xiaoshan Religious Case to overseas media was sentenced by the Hangzhou Intermediate Court to imprisonment for a term of three years on the “crime of investigating on behalf of, and illegally providing state intelligence to, overseas sources”.
 For example, the “Tudusha” church buildings of Hengpeng Village of Xiaoshan had been demolished for three time and reconstructed for four times, and the church buildings were finally reconstructed in January 2006; whereas the “Xiaoshan Religious Case of 2006” originated from the Dangshan Church leaders adopting the strategy of rush construction to establish the fact as a means of protesting against the government’s administrative inactivity of rejecting to approve their application for permission without giving proper reasons.
 On July 29, 2006 the Administration of Religious Affairs, the Administration of Homeland, the Administration of Urban Law Enforcement, and the Bureau of Public Security of Xiaoshan District, and the Dangshan Township government jointly dispatched about 3,000 policemen, armed policemen, law enforcement civil servants, and hired civilian workers to demolish by force the church buildings under construction. News reports by the “Hangzhou Daily” and the “Xiaoshan Daily” said that “no violence occurred on the spot and nobody was hurt”, while mentioning no word that the “illegal buildings” were “church buildings under construction”. The Network Monitoring and Regulation Branch of the Bureau of Public Security of Hangzhou inflicted administrative detention on Zan Aizong, the reporter who reported the case and was expelled by his employer, the China Ocean Press.
 Investigation and interrogation were conducted by the Branch Bureau of Public Security of Xiaoshan District; public prosecution was filed by the District Procuratorate; and trial was held at the Court of Xiaoshan District. The State Security Department required that Zan Aizong “go on a trip” to blockade the news; the Judicial Affairs Bureau of Beijing Municipality exerted pressure on the defending attorney; and the Xinhua News Agency released the news at first time right after the sentencing.
China Aid Contacts
Rachel Ritchie, English Media Director
Cell: (432) 553-1080 | Office: 1+ (888) 889-7757 | Other: (432) 689-6985
Email: [email protected]