Relaymedia

Tiananmen Dissidents: Chinese Pastor Yuan Zhiming Repents of Extramarital Affair, But Christian Activist Chai Ling Accuses Him of Rape

( [email protected] ) Mar 03, 2015 06:51 PM EST

Yuan Zhiming and Chai Ling
Prominent Chinese Christian converts Yuan Zhiming (left) and Chai Ling. Photo: File Photo, All Girls Allowed

Yuan Zhiming, a prominent voice in the global Chinese Christian community, has resigned from his ministry and asked for forgiveness after he was accused of raping fellow activist and Christian Chai Ling.

Chai accused the fellow 1989 Tiananmen Square activist of raping her in her New Jersey apartment in 1990 after he invited himself over to show an adult film to her. After she became a Christian in 2009, Chai wanted an apology from Yuan.

"I asked you to leave, but you grabbed me and physically pushed me to the carpet," Ling wrote in a statement last November addressing the rape allegations. "You raped me right there and you covered my eyes with the jackets that fell during my struggle."

According to Chai, Yuan refused to admit to the rape allegations in 2011, which outraged her. She, with backup from her supporters, claimed that she passed a polygraph test in regards to the incident.

The Tiananmen Square activist admitted to "extramarital sexual iniquity" with Chai, which led him to resign from his post at the China Soul for Christ Foundation. The rape allegations stemmed back to 1990, when both Chai and Yuan were at Princeton University.

"I do admit that I am a sinner, and it was by the grace of God that I am what I am," Yuan said in a statement on March 2. "For the extramarital sexual iniquity that I once committed in 1990 before I became a born-again Christian, I once again confess my sins to God and seek His forgiveness, and offer my apologies to the party that [was] involved in that relationship."

Yuan added that he was "deeply sorrowed by all the harms and troubles" he inflicted on the church. He asked the church to forgive him in regards to the extramarital encounter.

Chai's supporters, which are part of her group All Girls Allowed, wrote a letter to the board members of China Soul in regards to Yuan. They expressed disappointment at the lack of response regarding Yuan's alleged misconduct.

"Our ultimate pursuit is to arrive at the truth of what happened, and to see appropriate repentance and reconciliation," Chai's supporters wrote. "As disturbing as these allegations are, and as difficult as they are to deal with, there is an opportunity here for the Christian community to support those who have been victimized by sexual assault, and to call for an end to such behavior which is epidemic in our society."

The supporters added that they "wholeheartedly support Sister Chai Ling's actions to bring this matter to the attention of the broader Christian community" along with the detailed report from the 18 Chinese pastors. 

According to Timothy C. Morgan of Christianity Today, Chai's approach in confronting Yuan about the alleged rape relied on the three-step procedure Jesus outlined in Matthew 18:15-19 about reconciling sin between believers.  

18 ethnic Chinese pastors published a detailed report in regards to Zhiming's behavior, which prompted the rape allegations. In addition, they raised new allegations of sexual misconduct against the disgraced pastor.

"If not properly addressed and resolved," they said, "this incident and its related consequences will continue to flame ongoing debates and confusion, and leave long-lasting damage in the church."

According to Morgan, the pastors' statement also focused on a two-day encounter back in September 2013 between Yuan and a potential intern for China Soul. The information came from eyewitness accounts.

"According to the report, the two were in Paris at the time," Morgan wrote. "Yuan invited her into his hotel room and asked her to sit on the bed with him."

"On the second night, he asked her to sleep with him because he was lonely," Morgan wrote. "She refused. Yuan hugged her tightly for two to three minutes. After that, she left and later told a friend of the encounter. Her friend then informed a teacher of what happened."

Although Christianity Today was unable to independently verify the 18 pastors' report, Xie Wenjie, China Soul's board chair, dismissed it as "improper," noting that the organization has its own inquiry committee. However, Xie added that Yuan had been placed on "Sabbath" for the rest of 2015, making him ineligible to "preach, teach, or accept invitations to preach in person."

Despite the fact Yuan resigned from his pastoral duties "to retreat in the Lord and seek renewal," he still reiterated his denial that a rape ever took place with Ling.

"To God and to the public, although I could quietly endure the false accusations, I, however, could not and would not admit those sins which I have not committed," Yuan said in his statement. "I deny all of the defamatory accusations involving 'rape', 'attempted seduction' and 'sexual assault'."

Yuan and Chai both fled China after the 1989 crackdown in Tiananmen Square and eventually made their separate ways to the United States. Before the rape allegations emerged, Yuan was a prominent voice in the Chinese Christian community after he converted in 1992.

Morgan reported that two Christian leaders issued a report in June 2014 that showed wildly different narratives from both Yuan and Chai; a letter was sent by Chai in criticizing that investigation.

"I have a very good memory about important things," she said, noting that the polygraph examiner was a skilled professional. "The whole process of rape is unforgettable. How can I not remember it clearly?"

According to Morgan, Chai rejected the notion that adultery was committed at the time, given that the alleged incident happened before both of them became Christians. Her husband, Bob Maginn, drew a comparison in a November 2014 open letter to his wife's case with the renewed focus on sexual assaults on U.S. college campuses.

"The time to keep silent is over," he wrote. "But the cost to speak out is high."

Morgan reported that Chai has denied that money was behind the motivation to speak out about the rape allegations against Yuan, adding that the process outlined in Matthew 18 worked in her opinion.

"My motive in making this issue public," Chai said, "is simply to stop any sexual violence and sexual harassment that still may be going on."

According to Morgan, Grace Chapel elder Tom Colatosti urged Yuan to take the polygraph test "to bring closure."

"If he passes, end of story," Colatosti said. "If he fails, he confesses."

Tags : Yuan Zhiming, Chai Ling, Tiananmen Square, 1989 Tiananmen Square event, Chinese Christian, Chinese Christian community, Princeton University, China Soul for Christ Foundation, Yuan Zhiming rape allegations, All Girls Allowed, Tiananmen Square Christian activists, New Jersey