By BosNewsLife Asia Service with BosNewsLife’s Stefan J. Bos
BEIJING, CHINA (BosNewsLife)– An ex-house church pastor who currently leads a major Christian rights group urged the world Thursday, October 1 “to see beyond the fireworks” on the 60th anniversary of Communist Party rule in China, amid reports that Christians have been detained and churches closed ahead of the celebrations.
The international community should “recognize the true need for advancing religious liberty and fundamental human rights in China,” said Bob Fu, who leads U.S.-based China Aid Association (CAA), a well-informed advocacy group that has become a voice of Chinese Christians.
Fu, who fled China with his wife in the 1990s after their release from prison for unauthorized Christian activities, spoke as news emerged that well-known evangelical Pastor Hua Huiqi has been detained. He was reportedly arrested after his return from a “forced vacation” in northern Shanxi province on September 17.
Hua has been repeatedly “arrested, beaten, and interrogated” within the last two years for his church and Bible teaching work by officials of the Public Security Bureau, one of China’s main law enforcement agencies, according to Chinese Christians.
His mother Shuang Shuying, who campaigned for more rights of Christians, was released recently from her two-year imprisonment on what supporters said were “trumped up” charges of “damaging government property.”
HOUSE CHURCH PRESIDENT
Additionally the president of the Chinese House Church Alliance, Pastor Zhang Mingxuan, also known as ‘Pastor Bike’, was sent on “a forced vacation to Henan [province] on September 23—to allegedly prevent any uprisings in the capital during the National Day celebrations,” Fu added.
“The crackdown by the Beijing Public Security Bureau was foreshadowed by a secret directive sent in early August, calling for the dismantling of six specific Beijing house churches, including Pastor Hua’s and Pastor Bike’s,” he explained.
Since June, security forces closed at least 13 churches, Bible-training schools, and homes, forcing the Autumn Rain Church to meet outdoors for nine weeks, and others to file suits against the bans placed on their churches illegally, several Christians said.
“The most devastating [known] church attack occurred the night of September 13. With shovel loaders, bricks, and batons, nearly 400 local government officials [of Fushan county in Shanxi province] and hired-ruffians demolished 17 buildings on Linfen Church property,” beating and injuring more than 100 church members, Fu said.
He said, 20 Christians were “in critical condition and 10 [are] still hospitalized.” Personal properties were allegedly stolen.
“Seeking to delay any action against the central government, the same officials engaged in false negotiations, promising church leaders 1.4 million yen ($205,000) in reparations, before seizing and detaining nine church leaders, and installing military police in the main church buildings, to prevent the 50,000 member church from assembling to worship,” Fu added.
CAA said it also remains concerned about the “continued disappearance of two Chinese missionaries” since June 12 following a house church raid in the southwestern Sichuan province and “the absence of human rights lawyer Gao Zhisheng, whose whereabouts have been unaccounted for 240 days.”
Military police were ordered to suppress any religious gatherings throughout the 60th Anniversary of the People’s Republic of China—for the purpose of preventing “violent uprisings,” according to several Christian advocacy groups.
“News agencies reported over 1.4 million troops guarded Beijing today, a military presence amplified by the 108 anti-ballistic missiles on display and the hundreds of thousands marching in the parade,” CAA said.
“Tens of thousands of smiling children in bright colors illustrated a strong and vibrant China—but did not truthfully tell the story of religious persecution and denied human rights.”
China’s government says it respects religious rights but within the laws of the land, which only allow government-backed churches to function openly.
“As a Chinese native-born citizen who was forced to flee my home country twelve years ago, I am conflicted by the events of China’s National Day celebrations,” Fu said.
Although he “celebrates the history and traditions of China” Fu said “progress and positive changes in many areas of Chinese society” including economic prosperity and freedom of movement are overshadowed by “suffering inflicted upon persons of faith.”
“China now imprisons more people of faith and conscience than all the countries in the rest of the world combined…” The number of deaths caused by starvation, persecution and execution since the Communist Party of China (CPC) took power in 1949 has been estimated by Western investigators to 80 million or more. Thousands of Christians were among those executed, according to Christian estimates.
“Over two million Chinese people were executed by [the] CPC, including thousands of Christians. Today, the Chinese people still lack the basic protection of fundamental human rights and freedoms, such as freedom of press, speech, and assembly, as well as association,” Fu added.
“The Chinese judicial system is still under the total control of the CPC, without tolerance or independence from the political regime. Millions of Chinese citizens are still being held in Chinese Laogai (labor) camps, black detention cells, and work prisons, for simply exercising their rights—even those guaranteed by their own Chinese Constitution.”
He said, “Thousands of Protestant Christians, Catholics, Falun Gong practitioners, Uyghur Muslims and Tibetan Buddhists and other faithfuls have been executed or tortured to death in the past 60 years.”
At the same time, “millions of them were detained, kidnapped, arrested and sentenced to re-education through labor arbitrarily, without any due process. Hundreds of thousands are still being held illegally today and corrupt local governments deny their citizens’ basic rights,” he claimed.
Following the recent 20th anniversary of the 1989 military crackdown on pro-democracy protesters on Beijing’s Tiananmen Square, CAA said it “received and issued over 80 reports exposing 178 incidents of abuse against churches, human rights lawyers, and Protestant Christians in 14 provinces in China.”
They include nearly 120 arrests and over 914 cumulative days of forced detention.
Outside observers have said the spread of Christianity is seen as a threat to the atheist-based ideology of China’s Communist Party. There are believed to be as many as 130 million Christians in China, an officially “atheist” nation of over 1.3 billion people.