For the first time, persecuted Chinese House Church leaders, including tortured and abused women, testified at the United Nations Commission on Human Rights amid claims that the Beijing government is increasing pressure on unregistered churches and active believers. The two-hour hearing, held at the 60th annual meeting of the UN Commission in Geneva was aimed at showing the suffering of some of at least 8,903 Chinese believers who the Christian Aid Assocation (CAA) claims were arrested and detained in the last 10 years, according to ASSIST News Service (ANS).
The latest crackdown on Christians have been linked to concern among Communist authorities about the growing number of Christians in China, which analysts say is experiencing the fastest church growth in the world. According to ANS, there was no official reaction on the latest reports, but the Chinese government has said it is only acting against “dangerous cults.” However, on Friday, April 2, the CAA, armed with documents and video recordings of recently release female prisoners, painted a grim picture of Communist China’s attitude towards active Christians. As an example CAA president Bob Fu said that Chinese security forces tortured their prisoners to gather false evidence against Pastor Gong Shengliang, a pastor of a rapidly growing evangelical South China Church.
“All they wanted from me was a false testimony. They said, “If you just confess according to what we tell you, I will release you and let you go,” one of the released prisoners confessed. “Every time they hung me, it would last a least half an hour, sometimes even one hour. All together, they have hung me about a whole day. They also threatened me, saying, ‘We can beat you to death, and throw you into the Han River, or dig a hold somewhere to bury you. Who will question us about that? You count for nothing.’ They went on to say, ‘Don’t you know? A South China Church believer has been beaten to death by the police in Zhong Xiang, just because she kept silent and didn’t confess. After her death, nobody has come to us asking for an account. So we also can beat you to death, because you little believers count for nothing.”
Another South China Church leader, 33-year old Liu Xianzhi, was jailed and in labor camp from May 2001 until February of this year. She recalled the horrors of abuse and torture in the video presentation shown to the UN Commission. ON one occasion she was “taken to Zhongxiang Police Training Center (where) six or seven male policemen started to question me in their dormitory. One asked me, ‘Do you know why we arrest you?’ I said, ‘Because I believe in Jesus.’ He slapped me in the face when he heard this. He said, ‘Do you know what age we are in today? And you still believe in Jesus?’ I didn’t answer him back.”
Meng Xicun, another victim tortured for false evidence against Pastor Gong, said that she was beaten by several of the police officials and that her body became bruised. Later, they started beating her with a high-voltage electrical rod. The officers allegedly told her she would “die in vain, because nobody knows where you are, and we can just bury you somewhere, even your family won’t know. You know, we can just make you disappear, and we don’t have to take any responsibility for that.” At the end her “hands were trembling at their dictation.”
“My heart was struggling, because I knew this would be the so-called evidence which the police would use to accuse Pastor Gong Shengliang. It’s not fair to him at all,” Meng said.
However, like the others who were forced into accusing the pastor of false criminal charges, she felt she “had no other choice in that situation. I kept on writing down what the police instructed me. When I finished, I could stand still. I lost consciousness. It was too painful for me to accuse an innocent man, because Pastor Gong is a good man. He has never done such a ting. … But the police were determined to put him to death as a rapist based on the coerced testimony. After I finished, I had no desire for life any more. I felt like I had already died by doing this. But it is too late, the police had got what they wanted to accuse Pastor Gong.”
President Fu told the UN Commission that “at least three believers were tortured to death, many men and women believers were tortured and many, especially women, were sexually abused and molested during their interrogation to obtain false evidence against Pastor Gong.”
Also, CAA claimed that it has a document from China’s Religious Affairs Bureau of Qingdao City, Shandong province showing that the Chinese government intensified a campaign against innocent, unregistered churches and their believers since the end of 2002. It suggests that those who oppose patriotic religious bodies and defy the government’s administration will be “educated and transformed through compulsory study of the government’s religious policy and regulations.”
Pastor Peter Xu Yongze, founder of China’s largest Christian movement and dubbed “the Billy Graham of China” told the UN gathering in Geneva that, “Christians in China desire to live respectful and law-abiding lives. Christians have been recognized as being a force for social stability and respect for the law. Yet they continue to be persecuted for simply adhering to their faith according to their consciences. We do not seek confrontation and we are patriotic to our nation. All we ask is to be able to practice our faith freely.”
Pastor Peter Xu urged the Chinese government to stop all forms of religious persecution for all believers and to release all prisoners of conscience.
As the UN prepares to investigate torture in China, the CAA said that it hopes the investigations will help the estimated 80 million members of house church groups and churches across China.
[Source: ASSIST News Service]