China Aid Association
(CAA-Philadelphia — June 11, 2004) Chinese Christians fear for house church leader’s safety; Persecution Intensified in Yunnan Province
(Picture: Arrested Missionary Zhang Yongguang’s family working at Wa minority)
Chinese house church leader Xu Shuangfu’s whereabouts and condition are unknown, and Chinese Christians fear for his life. Xu was the leader of a controversial house church group known as “Three Grades Servants” in Henan Province, northeast China.
Xu was arrested April 26th, and since then family members have been prevented from seeing him. CAA sources report that the case against Xu has been handled as a national security case, rather than as a religious-affairs case. Local Religious Affairs Bureau (RAB) officials have been excluded from the case, which is being handled by the Department of National Security with orders apparently coming from the highest levels of the Chinese government in Beijing. Authorities have even questioned villagers in Xu’s hometown in Henan Province in their search for evidence against him.
Xu Shuangfu (also known as Xu Shengguang, which means “holy light”) has been a well-known house church leader since the 1980s. He has been arrested more than 20 times, and spent more than 20 years in prison. His group is known for the secrecy of its work, but is believed to have more than 500,000 members.
The PSB in Harbin City, Heilongjiang province, conducted major raids on the group in April. Xu Shuangfu was taken into custody that day, as was Gu Xianggao, a teacher in the group. Gu was beaten to death the next day while in the custody of Chinese Public Security Bureau (PSB) officers. He was 28 years old.
Xu was thought to be held at Harbin City’s Number One Detention Center, but a prison director has denied by phone that anyone by that name is currently being held there. Chinese Christians fear that Xu has been secretly transferred to another facility, and may even have already been executed.
If Xu is convicted of leading a so-called “Evil Cult,” he would face the death penalty.
Meanwhile, the persecution in Yunnan province in southern China has been intensifying recently.Yunnan is known across China for its springtime weather, but recently there has been a chilly spell for unregistered Christians across that region.
In February, an underground Bible training school in Kunming caught the attention of local policemen, and police in plain clothes went in disguised as sanitation inspectors. All the teachers and students left that building without being arrested.
One month later, the leader felt that it was safe to return to the building. Students had left a lot of the possessions behind, and wanted to retrieve them. The leader asked a former coworker, Zuoting Chen, to check on their possessions. However, the man was arrested by the police when he drove into the building on March 12. He has been charged with “endangering the interest of the nation.”
That night about 20 police raided his residence in Zigong town, 20 miles from Kunming. Officers did not present a search warrant, according to Guilin Qi, his wife. The police took away everything that might lead to a clue, including all their spiritual books, computers, VCD player, VCDs, and other items. The police refused to provide a record of the confiscated items, which is a clear violation of Chinese law.
Chen was detained for more than a month, and denied any visits from his wife. Finally, he was released because the police could not make the case against him.
He was released on parole April 20. He has to go to the police station twice a week to report.
During the numerous interrogations, Chen was shown many photos of foreigners, and was asked if he knew any of them was engaged in Christian missions. He reported that foreigners were clearly the target of the police efforts.
Chen’s wife has become a target too. The Chens are faithful members in a house church in Zigong. On the evening of May 14, police came to their meeting to arrest Guilin Qi. She picked up her son, 8 years old, and ran, escaping to Sichuan province. Later she took her son to another province for refuge. Mother and the son are still on the run, moving from place to place.
The policemen in Zigong ordered the landlord to open the door of the couple’s apartment, and started a second search. Brother Chen is afraid to return to the apartment. The house church which the Chen family was attending has suspended their meetings because of the police threats.
Last year, police in Kunming raided another underground Bible school, and detained all the young students for more than one month, according to the source in Kunming.
This chilly spell is not limited in Kunming city.
Cangyuan is a very remote mountainous region in Yunnan where most people live in poverty. The central government calls for “volunteers” to work there. Zhang Yongguang and his wife, a dedicated Christian couple with a missionary heart for the Wa minority people in that area, moved there with their young son, 8 years old. They work hard. They have tried to obey and respect all the local customs.
On May 4, 2004 Zhang Yongguang was arrested by the police. They were accused of “engaging in illegal religious activities.” They attended a local house church, and preached there once a while.
Zhang was detained for 25days. On May 29, he was taken by the police to his hometown in Henan province. His wife Ms. Yuan Yuehua and eight-year-old son Zhang Lingen were forced to move too. Now Zhang is in jail in Henan.
CAA China investigators say he would either be fined up to 30000 Yuan (three years’ earnings) or sentenced to three years in prison. In Henan, his family was informed that he was detained because he was preaching an “evil religion,” but CAA sources say the charges stem from his unregistered church activity. His family members have been denied the right to visit him in jail.
“We ask that the Chinese government publicly state the charges against Pastor Xu,” said Bob Fu, “and we ask that his family be allowed visiting rights in keeping with Chinese law.” CAA urges the Yunnan provincial government to reconsider its repressive policy against the innocent law-binding Chinese Christians and to start serious dialogues with the house church leaders for a better mutual understanding.
People of faith and conscience around the world are encouraged to write a polite letter of protest on behalf of Pastor Xu Shuangfu and the arrested religious leaders in Yunnan.. Letters can be addressed to:
Ambassador Yang Jiechi Hu Jintao
2300 Connecticut Ave NW, People’s Republic of China
Tel:(202) 328-2500 Fax:(202) 588-0032
Embassy of the People’s Republic of China President
Washington DC 20008 Beijing
People’s Republic of China
Director of Religious Affairs: (202) 328-2512