China Moves to Crush Millions-Strong Christian House Church
Leader Reported Kidnapped, Over 90 Coworkers Arrested, and 1 Tortured to Death; 2 Catholic Priests Also Arrested in Separate Incident
May 19, 2004
by Center for Religious Freedom
The Center for Religious Freedom of Freedom House today urged U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell to protest China’s responsibility for what is probably the world’s largest single incident of religious repression now underway in the world.
According to the Flushing, NY-based Committee for Investigation on Persecution of Religion in China (CIPRC), Chinese officials are waging an offensive begun last month to eradicate one of that country’s most massive Christian house churches, one that – along with the Buddhist offshoot Falun Gong – is banned under the state’s anti-cult laws. The church known as the Three Class Servants Church has attracted several million members throughout the country, though official records are not kept for security reasons.
The crackdown on the Protestant house church started on April 17, 2004, when its founder and leader, 59-year-old Xu Shuangfu, was kidnapped by gun-wielding men in a police car while visiting congregation members in neighboring Haerbin, Heilongjian Province. It seems he is being virtually held for ransom by Heilongjian Public Security police, who demanded 3 million RMB from his goddaughter to solve the case. The kidnappers then called the goddaughter, threatening to “kill the old man” or chop off one of his fingers. Ms. Liu, a church member abducted along with Xu who managed to escape, said the pair were blindfolded and held at gunpoint in a police vehicle. Reportedly, she then was apprehended by the provincial Public Security police the next day and has not been seen nor heard from since.
Rev. Xu Shuangfu, a native of Linglou Village in Henan Province, has devoted his life to evangelism and has been arrested and jailed many times.
On April 26, more than 90 of Xu’s co-workers and fellow believers in Haerbin were arrested, according to CIPRC. One church member, 28-year-old Gu Xianggao of Shandong Province, was reportedly tortured and beaten to death; his parents were offered hush money by the police and, when they refused it, the police incinerated Gu’s body. Those detained had their homes ransacked and their belongings seized by police. Several church ministers were listed among those arrested: Yin Chuanhui, Fan Yuqin, Jiao Jianmin, and Lian Zhifu. The victims’ families are now being kept under strict surveillance and have been threatened with arrest when making inquiries about their loved ones.
CIPRC has provided telephone contact information in China for family members of Rev. Xu and murder victim Gu, as well as a police official involved in the case. Xu Shuangfu’s wife, Wang Jun, can be reached in Linglou Village, Xiaodian Town, Nanzhao County Henan Province at 011-86-13653851307. Gu Yucheng and Zhao Meihua, parents of Gu Xianggao, at 011-86-535-7559652 in Dongshige Village, Tuanwang Town, Laiyang City, Shandong Province. The policeman who knows Gu’s case, Hou Naifeng, can be reached at 011-86-451-84693293 in Harbin City, Heilongjiang Province. * Other contact information can be obtained by calling John Lee of CIPRC in New York at 646-361-5039.
The Center for Religious Freedom is calling on the U.S. government to vigorously protest this wholesale assault now taking place on one of China’s underground mega-churches. Center director Nina Shea said, “The U.S. government must draw attention to this new outrage against religious believers in China. As we saw at the UN Commission on Human Rights China’s leadership works assiduously to evade international human rights censure. It needs to know that we will not overlook this large-scale and coordinated anti-Christian campaign. China must not be allowed to get away, quite literally, with murder, “ Shea stated.
Meanwhile, in another part of China, the government has been cracking down on underground Catholics. The Stamford, CT, Cardinal Kung Foundation reported that on May 14, 42-year-old Father Lu Genjun and 40-year-old Father Cheng Xiaoli were arrested by security police in An Guo, Hebei, as they were starting classes in natural family planning and theology. Father Lu has had several prior arrests and had recently been released after three years in a labor camp. He is now being held at the police detention center of Dingzhou, Hebei. It is not known where Father Cheng is being held.
Two underground bishops had been briefly detained a few weeks earlier. Joseph Kung, president of the Cardinal Kung Foundation, has characterized the current arrests of Father Lu and Father Cheng as “yet another in a litany of examples of the ongoing religious persecution in China. This proves that religious persecution is not something of the past even with the current booming Chinese economy.”