Massive Arrest

April 20, 2006

Massive Arrest of Church Leaders Including Americans in Yunnan Province; CAA Issues Heartbreaking True Stories on Persecution inside China

MIDLAND, Texas, April 19 /Christian Newswire/ — According to China Aid Association’s field investigators in China, 7 foreign evangelical church leaders including 5 Americans and 2 Taiwanese were interrogated for 5 hours on March 23, 2006. CAA issues heartbreaking true stories on persecution inside China.

At 9:30am, March 23, 2006, over 120 security officers from five different government agencies raided a conference building in the suburb of Kunming City, the capital of Yunnan Province. The government officers and military police came in two buses and 10 police cars.

Eighty Chinese house church leaders from 20 provinces were attending a fellowship meeting with Christian leaders from America. These 80 leaders represent 25 Chinese minority groups. The five Americans are from churches in Greensboro North Carolina. Among them two are white Americans and three are Chinese Americans. Since the two white American pastors are still inside China and some of the released Chinese pastors are still monitored by the Chinese security agents, their names are not available to the public according to one of the arrested pastors who came back to his home in the US.

CAA learned this raid was directly orchestrated by the director of the Public Security Bureau of Yunnan Province and carried out jointly by the officers from the provincial public security, national security, foreign affairs office, religious affairs bureau and military police officers. At 2 pm (Beijing Time), following a 5 hour marathon interrogation, all of those arrested were released and some are being followed back to their home provinces.

According to an eyewitness, the Chinese officers’ attitudes were very rude and they refused to show their IDs and even ate all of the food prepared for the pastors’ lunch. The foreign religious leaders were accused of being foreign religious infiltrators by their interrogators.

CAA has also learned that jailed Beijing Pastor Cai Zhuohua has been forced to work more than 10 hours a day making commercial handbags since his transfer to Tianhe Prison on January 11, 2006. Since January 23, 2006, Despite repeated attempts by Cai’s mother, none of Cai’s relatives have been allowed to visit him in prison.(Prison Address: No.9 Qingfeng Road, Tiantang He, Daxing District, Beijing City Tel: +86-10-60278855, director: Mr. Yang Hua; website: http://www.qsc.gov.cn)

Meanwhile, CAA issues heartbreaking true stories regarding religious persecution inside China.

The persecution against Protestant House Churches in China has intensified. According to reliable reports by China Aid Association, from February to December 2005, at least 1317 confirmed arrests of house church pastors, leaders, and believers has occurred in over twenty provinces in China. Seventeen foreign missionaries including eleven Americans in ten different provinces were arrested during this time. Most of the arrested were released after they were interrogated anywhere from 24 hours to several months. CAA confirmed reports through victims own testimonies showing inhumane torture against the arrested believers including coercion of evidence through drugging and other extremely abusive methods by the interrogators from both Chinese Public Security officers and State Security agents. Religious groups which already had limited fundamental rights have been deemed a “cult” at any time and have lost what legitimacy they previous held. Foreigners were ordered to leave the country after hours of interrogation. On August 2, 2005, the two American theological students from Westminster Theological Seminary were treated brutally and handcuff after they were arrested at a bible study site in Zaoyang City, Hubei Province. Both were denied their right to contact the US Embassy as part of the international consulate protection procedure guaranteed by US-China bilateral treaties.

“We urge President Bush to discuss these specific cases with Chinese President Hu tomorrow,” said Rev. Bob Fu, “the First Freedom – Freedom of Religion – should not be expended freely with free trade.”

Issued by CAA on April 19, 2006

Crying out to God from behind Bars
–Heartbreaking True Stories inside China
By Rev. Bob Fu, President of China Aid Association

For the American people, practicing their faith regularly is a basic freedom taken for granted. However, they can hardly imagine that this basic right has been denied to Christian groups in China by the Chinese government.

The fact is, members of Christian house churches in China are constantly harassed, persecuted and even put behind bars by the Chinese government authority on the grounds of “illegal evil cult,” “illegal religious gathering or evangelizing,” and “non-registration with the relevant authority”.

The persecution against Protestant House Churches in China has been intensified. According to reliable reports by China Aid Association, from February to December 2005, at least 1317 confirmed arrests of house church pastors, leaders and believers occurred in over twenty provinces in China. 17 foreign missionaries including 11 Americans in about 10 different provinces were arrested at the same period of time. Most of the arrested were released after they were interrogated from 24 hours to several months. CAA confirmed reports with victims own testimonies showing inhumane torture against the arrested believers including coercion for evidence through drugging and other extremely inhumane abuse and torture by the interrogators from both Chinese Public Security officers and State Security agents. Religious groups which already have limited fundamental rights have been deemed a “cult” at any time and loose what legitimacy they previous held Foreigners were ordered to leave the country after hours of interrogation. On August 2, 2005, the two American theological students from Westminster Theological Seminary were treated brutally with handcuff after they were arrested at a bible study site in Zaoyang city, Hubei province. Both of them were denied rights to contact US Embassy as part of international consulate protection procedure guaranteed by US-China bilateral treaties.

Here are just a few examples:

On March 13, 2006, about 100 Public Security (police) officers raided a house church leadership meeting in Wenxian County, Henan Province in Central China, and took all 80 of the pastors into custody after searching them and confiscating any cash on them. According to interviews with several of the pastors who were later released, the police treated them very brutally. All were beaten with electric shock batons at police stations. Pastor Li Gongshe, 51, who is handicapped and showed the police his handicap certificate, was continuously beaten by a police officer named Wang in front of the police chief and the political director. Pastor Li was hospitalized for treatment of a broken rib caused by a police beating. One Christian lady, 21-year-old Ms. Shan Ailing, was forced by the police to strip during the interrogation at a local police station. The pastors were accused of holding an “illegal evil cult gathering” by the authorities; however, these pastors are believed to be part of the Henan Fangcheng Mother Church group which is known worldwide as an evangelical House Church group in China. Most of the released including a 15-year-old Christian girl Li Hongmin from Nanle County, Henan Province had experienced torture and abuse by interrogators during their 15 to 30 days detention time.

On January 15, 2006, Beijing Ark House Church was raided by four Public Security Bureau agents. The two uniformed policemen and two plain clothed agents rushed into the rented apartment where believers were having Sunday worship at 4:30 PM. One PSB officer, Mr. Gao Xijun, (badge number 035250) declared that the church was disturbing neighbors and another PSB policeman told the congregation that their religious gathering was an illegal assembly because it was not registered in line with the newly issued State Council Regulations on Religious Affairs. One plain clothed policeman found a foreign journalist, who had come to the church with a Chinese friend, videotaping the process, he dashed over and dragged the journalist to a small room, pinning the journalist against a sofa and rudely seized the video camera and his tapes.

On August 2, 2005, about ninety policemen ransacked the South China Church house meeting of approximately 50 Christians and two American seminary students in Zaoyang City, Hubei Province. The police initially refused to show their ID, and many of the women present were arrested without warrants. The police also forcibly detained the two Americans. Ren Daoyun, a fifty-three year old woman, was hosting the two Americans during their stay in China. When the police entered her home, she protested and asked them to show their ID’s and search warrant. They refused and grabbed her by the hair and pushed her out of the way. As her house was searched, the police confiscated 3,400 Yuan, a 40,000 Yuan bank deposit slip, a phone, and more than one thousand Christian books. She was arrested and taken with the others to Zaoyang No. 2 Detention Center and brutally tortured by being beaten, burned with cigarettes, kicked and stomped, handcuffed, etc. Even the two Americans were treated so roughly that the wrists of one began to bleed because of the hand cuffs. One woman who protested to the police about their actions toward the Americans was beaten severely.

These are only a few of the numerous cases of mistreatment, persecution, and torture of house church Christians by Chinese government authorities in recent years. Thousands of innocent believers are being pursued, arrested, detained, tortured, and sentenced to imprisonment or even death, simply because of their religious faith in today’s China, despite the fact that the Chinese Constitution stipulates that “Citizens of the People’s Republic of China enjoy freedom of religious belief.”

An even more shocking case involves the consistent and systematic persecution of the South China Church, an evangelical Christian house church in Hubei Province founded by Pastor Gong Shengliang. The church has grown into a membership of hundreds of thousands of followers through their evangelizing efforts spread over a dozen or so provinces in central and south China. Pastor Gong Shengliang and 16 other leaders of the church were arrested by government authorities in 2001 and imprisoned ever since because the Chinese government denounced their church as an “evil cult.” Chinese government continues to imprison Pastor Gong as a way of threatening and deterring the mission of his church, which China views as a threat to the monopoly of the state sponsored church. Pastor Gong was convicted of criminal charges and sentenced to death based on evidence obtained through torture and after a trial that lacked even the most rudimentary elements of due process. Detailed accounts of the Chinese government’s torture of Pastor Gong and other members of the South China Church have been presented in various petitions to China’s Supreme Court, international human rights organizations and United Nations agencies, and will be summarized later in this piece.

Not coincidentally, the Special Rapporteur of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment stated after concluding a two-week visit to China on 2 December 2005 that he “believes that the practice of torture, though on the decline – particularly in urban areas – remains widespread in China. Indeed, this is increasingly recognized by Government officials.” The significant number of serious allegations related to torture and other forms of ill-treatment in China received by the Special Rapporteur and his predecessors over the last several years indicate “a consistent and systematic pattern of torture related to ethnic minorities, particularly Tibetans and Uighurs, political dissidents, human rights defenders, Falun Gong practitioners, and members of house-church groups.”

The U.N. Special Rapporteur’s report further enumerates the methods of alleged torture as follows: “beatings; use of electric shock batons; cigarette burns; hooding/blindfolding; guard- instructed or permitted beatings by fellow prisoners; use of handcuffs or ankle fetters for extended periods (including solitary confinement or secure holding areas), submersion in pits of water or sewage; exposure to conditions of extreme heat or cold, being forced to maintain uncomfortable positions, such as sitting, squatting, lying down, or standing for long periods of time, sometimes with objects held under arms; deprivation of sleep, food or water; prolonged solitary confinement; denial of medical treatment and medication; hard labor; and suspension from overhead fixtures by handcuffs….”

On the basis of the information he received during his mission, the Special Rapporteur confirms that many of these methods of torture have been used in China.

Unfortunately, the prevalence of torture by Chinese security and law enforcement personnel on detained members of house-churches and other Christian groups to extort false accusations and confessions have been confirmed by the testimonies of the imprisoned Christian believers. Each of the torture techniques listed above can be corroborated by convincing and bloody experiences of the victims themselves or eyewitness narrations. The following paragraphs will cite just a few of them.

Beatings
Pastor Gong Shengliang of the South China Church was beaten at the time of his arrest according to eyewitnesses: “As he was walking on the road, about 20 plain clothed 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. He spat blood from his nose and mouth on the spot.” (The Gong Family’s letter to President Bush) During interrogation by local police, “he was beaten so hard that he fainted away on the ground many times and was awakened by cold water being splashed on him.”

Chen Jingmao, the 74-year old Christian of the South China Church was arrested in 2001 because of his efforts to send food to needy Christians in Longjiao Township, Yunyang County, Chongqing Municipality in Southwest China. The local government sentenced him to four years in prison for “using a cult organization to sabotage law enforcement.” Chen suffered severe beating by prison guards. On February 2, 2004, a fellow inmate named Yao Decai reported to prison authorities that Chen had been sharing his Christian beliefs with fellow prisoners. Within a short period of time, more than a dozen prison officials appeared and beat the old man all over his body and kicked his abdomen until he lost consciousness. His injuries were so severe that he had no strength to walk or eat. During the following two weeks, prison officials administered intravenous fluids in Chen four times a day to keep him alive. He could not speak and could barely hear. Upon his release in July, 2005, he was immediately hospitalized due to chronic injuries as a result of the physical abuse and torture he suffered during his imprisonment.

Xiao Cao and Fei Xiang, a young Christian couple, both 22 years of age, of the house church of Changsha, Hunan Province, were kidnapped by security personnel in early 2005 as they left a hospital. They were taken to the “Hunan Detention Security Center” for interrogation and suffered severe beatings. Xiao Cao says in his testimony: “They kicked me from the back. He then had me face the wall and started handing out corporeal punishment. Because my body was very weak, I could not withstand the series of blows. They said that if I did not cooperate well, they will continue to punish me until I had no wish to live anymore.” “They hit me over the ears with their fists; they kicked me on my legs until my thighs started to bleed. Any movement became excruciatingly painful. I couldn’t move at all. They continued to kick my legs very severely. It was so painful that I cried. Then they hit my head against the wall and ridiculed me by saying, ‘Do you want to become a martyr? Do you want to go to the roof and jump off the building?’ They then dragged me onto a wooden chair. One of them asked me, ‘You still don’t say anything?’ They kicked my legs again and punched my head and face. At this time my will had already died. I didn’t think of anything, and just let them do what they wanted. For the next few days I didn’t eat or drink anything.”

Fei Xiang, Xiao Cao’s wife, recalled her ordeal this way: “They interrogated me continuously for two days and two nights. They didn’t allow me to rest. More than ten guys took turns questioning me, a fragile female. I was already sick with cold and fever for a week. In the evening I encountered a very cruel male who started to hit me mercilessly. He punched my head and face. As a result my illness became worse. My whole body was uncomfortable. It was very difficult to bear. I wanted to die.”

Use of electric shock batons
Gong Shengliang and other detained members of the South China Church were repeatedly tortured with electric shock batons by police interrogators. In addition, the police tortured all the female followers by burning their lips, breasts and lower body parts with electric shock batons to force them to give false testimony as to “having had sexual intercourse with Gong Shengliang.”

In the previously cited case involving the March 13, 2006 raid of Henan Fangcheng Mother Church, all the detained pastors were brutally beaten by police with electric shock batons. The police put cushions on their bodies in order not to leave visible external scars while beating.

In another case involving a Chinese church group called Three Grades of Servants, the detained church leader Xu Shuangfu stated that the authority had extorted a confession from him through severe torture including electric shock batons. They bound his fingers and toes with copper wires and electrocuted him with a shock baton. Then the most humiliating torture was having his genitals bound with copper wire and electrocuted with a shock baton.

Guard-instructed beatings by fellow prisoners
After Pastor Gong Shengliang of the South China Church had his sentence commuted from death to life imprisonment in 2002, he was put in the Jingzhou Penitentiary of Hubei to serve his sentence. In the prison he was prohibited from contacting and talking with any inmate and from answering any inmate’s questions. The guards went so far as to instigate other inmates to speak to him on purpose in late June, 2003. Pastor Gong, 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 by the inmates to the extent that he suffered incontinence and his stool and urine contained blood. His left ear was beaten bloody and to this day he can not hear in that ear. He was left unattended with only a faint breath.

Hooding/blindfolding
When Pastor Gong Shengliang of the South China Church was arrested, he had his head covered with a black bag, blindfolded and escorted overnight to the Public Security Bureau of Zhongxiang City, Hubei Province and placed in a tightly enclosed torment chamber.

In the case of the young Christian couple of the house church of Changsha, Hunan Province, Xiao Cao was blindfolded and taken to the Hunan Detention Security Center.

Lengthened use of handcuffs or ankle fetters
Gong Shengliang of the South China Church stated in his complaint that he had been shackled as a death row convict without trial since the day of his arrest on August 8, 2001, even during the three days of his court appearance in December 2001. He had been shackled by five different types of ankle fetters for as long as 411 days until September 23, 2002 when returning for retrial.

Deprivation of sleep, food or water
Gong Shengliang, Li Ying, Xu Fuming, and other members of the South China Church all suffered from this type of torture. Pastor Gong Shengliang was interrogated consecutively by police in turn and not allowed to even close his eyes for 72 hours. Sister Li Ying was beaten for five days and nights in a row and prohibited from sleeping. Xu Fuming was beaten for eight consecutive days and nights and not allowed to close his eyes.

In the case of the young Christian couple of the house church of Changsha, Hunan Province, the interrogation of Xiao Cao lasted three days and nights, well over the 12-hour maximum time permitted by law. During his interrogation he was not allowed to sleep, causing him to engage in disparaging thoughts of suicide. Fei Xiang, already sick for a week, was interrogated continuously for two days and two nights and not allowed to rest.

Denial of medical treatment and medication
Gong Shengliang of the South China Church was injured due to a fall while performing a labor task in prison in April 2004. He did not receive timely treatment for his injuries. His stomach disease flared up on November 29, 2004 and he vomited continuously. He couldn’t eat or drink anything for nine days. He requested medical treatment on several occasions but was ignored by the guards. When he sensed that he was on the threshold of death he wrote a letter pleading for medical treatment. The prison Section Head didn’t believe him and even accused him of feigning sickness. Gong said, “It is up to you to believe me or not, but you cannot insult my integrity.” Only then was he given 5 tablets of stomach medicine. After that Gong didn’t eat or drink for 15 days lying in bed without moving. The inmates in the same cell constantly check his nostrils for breath to make sure he was still alive. They thought that he would not survive this time. After repeated requests from Gong in his critical condition, the guards finally took him to a hospital. The doctor there said: “He is so critically ill that were he not brought at that time, he would….” Afterwards Gong proposed to have a thorough examination and further treatment in a hospital at his own expense, but was flatly refused by the authorities. He has incurred, as a result of torture and deprivation, internal injuries and other such diseases as rheumatism, back and leg pain, asthma, tracheitis, coughing, etc., which were not treated in a timely manner and have gotten worse. This has devastated him physically and mentally. For example, he feels unbearable pain in his stomach now.

In the case of the young Christian couple of the house church of Changsha, Hunan Province, the wife Fei Xiang recalled, “I was already sick with cold and fever for a week. And because my sickness had developed into bronchitis I had daily infusions. Throughout my ordeal my illness became progressively worse.” The officials refused her medical attention when she requested it, and they prevented her from sleeping for the duration of the interrogation. On the third day, they gave her some medicine that immediately made everything worse. The wounds on her head from their beatings ached more acutely; she started vomiting, and became very dizzy. In combination with her already weakened state, her further medical complications caused great mental confusion. Her interrogators took that opportunity to force her to write and sign documents that she could no longer understand. To this day, she doesn’t know what those documents contained. After her release and up until the time she wrote her testimony for CAA, she felt a constant uneasiness, getting headaches at the slightest noise, and not able to get a full night’s rest because of terrible nightmares.

Hard labor
Gong Shengliang of the South China Church, with his injuries, had to endure the extreme labor conditions in prison. Everyday he had to work continuously, excluding meal time, from 6 o’clock in the morning till 12 midnight or 2 the following morning, equivalent to an 18 – 20 hour work day. He felt light headed with each passing day and almost fainted and he fell down more than once. In April 2004 he was assigned to work mid-air above the ground in the prison mess hall and fell and injured his back and legs.

Another leader of the church, Sister Li Ying, is serving her 15 year sentence at Wuhan Women’s Prison, Hubei Province, where she has to endure intense physical labor every day.

In spite of all the persecution, torture and devastation, the faithful of the evangelical Christian house churches in China still willingly carry their Cross, exercise restraint, suffer losses, and raise their hands to pray for those who participate in persecuting believers. They still love their country and people, still pay their taxes and dues, and endeavor to be law-abiding, loyal citizens. The imprisoned church leaders and members, despite their weaken health and heavy labor, still insist on worshiping, fasting, praying, and singing, and leading inmates praying and singing together. They also write letters to church and family members, in order to comfort and strengthen their loved ones. Their cries from behind bars are reverberating throughout the world and reaching out to heaven.
References:
CAA Torture and Abuse Report 2005
CAA Press Releases
Testimonies of imprisoned Christians
South China Church’s letter to President Bush
The Gong Family’s letter to President Bush
Defense Statement for the Xu Shuangfu Case

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