A Chinese Christian who has spent six years in labor camps and who was tortured and abused for her faith, testified at the United Nations earlier this week.
At Wednesday’s annual meeting of the UN Commission on Human Rights in Geneva, 33-year-old Liu Xianzhi described the mistreatment and persecution she received at the hands of the Chinese Communist authorities after her arrests in 1996 and 2001. She is one of the top 20 leaders in the South China Church, which has more than 100,000 members.
In 1996, Liu was arrested for being an ‘illegal evangelist’ and spent three years in Shauang Labour Camp. She was released in 1998, but was arrested again in 2001 in a crackdown on the South China Church.
“In an effort to frame the leader of the South China Church, Pastor Gong Shengliang, her interrogators tried to get her to give evidence of sexual misconduct by him,” UK-based Christian Solidarity Worldwide reported. “When she refused to give into their threats, they sexually assaulted her.”
On Dec. 7, 2001, after prolonged torture and beatings, Liu was charged with organizing and using an evil cult organization to obstruct the implementation of the law. She was accused of evangelizing, attending gatherings and being involved in the publication of a church magazine, including actively contributing articles.
According to CSW, other members of the church were sentenced at the same time, with Pastor Gong and four others sentenced to death. The sentences caused an international outcry and as a result there was a retrial. The charges relating to cults were dropped and Liu was freed by the judge. However, in an act of “blatant injustice,” she was immediately administratively sentenced by the police to three years re-education in a labor camp, CSW reported. She was finally released on Feb. 1, 2004.
Liu stated that she still suffers today, even though she managed to escape from China. “When I go out I feel that people are taking note of me. I suspect that someone is following me. When I hear dogs barking, loud and fast knocking on the door, the sound of police sirens, or I see men who are not wearing shirts (like my interrogators), I have an overwhelming sense of fear,” Liu said.
According to CSW National Director Stuart Windsor, “The vicious persecution of Liu Xianzhi demonstrates yet again the violence used by the Chinese authorities against Christians. Her account is a horrifying testimony of mistreatment at the hands of a regime which seems to use all means necessary to try to stamp out the Christian faith. Her powerful testimony before the UN must spur the international community to do more to uphold basic human rights and religious freedom in China.”
Windsor, who was also present at Wednesday’s meeting, spoke on the case of Zhang Yi Nan whom the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention has recognized as being arbitrarily detained in breach of international standards. Zhang, 47, is a church historian and writer, who played a key role in unifying the unofficial house churches in China. He was arrested by police without a warrant in September 2003.
Windsor showed how China continues to practice arbitrary detention in its ongoing persecution of Christians.
Also speaking at Wednesday’s meeting was Bob Fu, President of the China Aid Association, a key agency documenting the persecution of the church in China. Fu was a house church leader in Beijing until he and his wife were detained for ‘illegal religious activities.’ After his release they fled to the West to avoid further imminent persecution for their faith. He spoke on official Chinese policies against unregistered religious groups.
Video footage regarding extra-judicial killing was also shown during the meeting in Geneva and evidence of torture, forced labor, and religious repression was also produced. A secret official document regarding the current crackdown on unregistered religious groups was exposed at the meeting.
According to the China Aid Association, Wednesday’s meeting was the second time in the history of the United Nations that Chinese House Church leaders testified about religious repression, torture, sexual abuse and arbitrary detention in China.
The 61st annual meeting was sponsored by A Woman’s Voice International, a UN recognized NGO.