2012 was a year of dramatic upheavals for the Chinese government and Chinese society. The eruption of one explosive and unexpected incident after another provided the Chinese people as well as the rest of the world with a stream of cliff-hanging, dramatic news stories. Current events changed, a leadership transition took place, but the Christians continued to be on the receiving end of various forms of persecution.
The selection of 2012’s top 10 persecution cases (some are combinations of multiple cases) was made based on the severity, impact and significance of each incidence of persecution and is a highly representative list. These incidents took place in different parts of China and involved both urban and rural house churches, as well as “Three-Self” churches and Catholic churches, and included individual Christian victims, among them pastors, human rights lawyers, political dissidents, college students and victims of China’s one-child family planning policy.
I. Attorney Gao Zhisheng is still alive, serving a three-year prison term in remote Xinjiang
On Jan. 1, 2012, prominent Christian rights defense lawyer Gao Zhisheng, who had been severely persecuted for many years by the Chinese government headed by Hu Jintao and Wen Jiabao and forcibly “disappeared” for 20 months, had been sent to Shaya Prison in the Aksu region of the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region to serve a three-year prison term. Soon after, Gao Zhisheng’s eldest brother, Gao Zhiyi, accompanied by Gao Zhisheng’s father-in-law and two sisters, travelled several thousand kilometers (miles) to the remote Shaya Prison to visit him, but on Jan. 10, the prison refused to allow them to see Gao, claiming that “Gao Zhisheng does not want to see his relatives.” On August 27, Li Xiongbin and Li Subin, two well-known rights Beijing defense lawyers engaged by Gao Zhiyi, traveled to Shaya Prison and applied for permission to meet with Gao Zhisheng, but Shaya Prison and the Bureau of Prison Management denied their request, saying that their “ [legal] representation [of Gao] is invalid and attorney Gao himself does not want to meet with any family members or attorneys.”
II. Beijing Shouwang Church – nearly two years of persecution, facing an uncertain future
Since April 10, 2011, the well-known Beijing Shouwang Church has been forced to hold its worship services outdoors, enduring non-stop persecution to this day at the hands of the Beijing government. In the past 20-plus months, manyChristians were taken into police custody, verbally and physically abused, put under house arrest, and etc. The reason for Shouwang Church being forced to hold outdoor worship services was the government’s long-term unlawful interference and pressure, locking the church out of its leased meeting site and then preventing the church from taking possession of the keys to property it had purchased. On Sept. 14, 2012, senior pastor Jin Tianming followed the unique model of house churches defending their rights by using the law and applied on behalf of Shouwang Church for an administrative review of the actions of the Beijing Municipal Public Security Bureau. According to the data collected by Shouwang Church, by September 2012, because they persisted in attending outdoor worships services, “members of Shouwang Church were detained 1,600 times by either Domestic Security Protection agents in various districts [of Beijing] or in more 90 different police stations across Beijing (for periods of several hours to 48 hours). Sixty people were evicted from their homes and more than 10 people lost their jobs because they attended Shouwang Church’s outdoor worship services or simply because they were Shouwang Church members; others were sent back to their hometowns and some believers were confined to their homes on the weekends, while Shouwang Church’s pastors, elders and ministers remain confined to their homes up to the present time.”
III. A Chinese Christian businesswoman from Canada visited Shouwang Chuch and Jindengtai Church; kidnapped and tortured
In Dec 2011, Jenny Chen, a Chinese Christian businesswoman who lives in Canada and does business in Canada, the United States and China, was in China for business, and while under surveillance by Beijing Domestic Security Protection agents, visited Jin Tianming, senior pastor of Shouwang Church, who had been under house arrest for over eight months. She also went to the Jindeng Church established by Shanxi Linfen house church and saw with her own eyes that regular and armed police had surrounded the church with armored personnel carriers, sealed the streets, closed nearby shops and prevented church members from attending a Christmas worship service. On Jan. 14, 2012, she was kidnapped from her own home in Tianjin by two men who refused to show identification and taken to a secret place for questioning. She later realized that she had been kidnapped by state security agents. She was interrogated in a cold, windowless cell with only one chair. During her two days of detention, state security agents punched and kicked this woman in her 50s, pulled her hair and fiercely slapping her in the face. Already ill from being deprived of food and water, this sister almost went into shock and had to be taken to the Tianjin Public Security Hospital from where she escaped and boarded a flight to Los Angles. She arrived in Los Angeles on Jan. 17, where she received further medical treatment.
IV. Christian rights defense lawyers and dissidents given long prison sentences or are murdered; China’s Hu Jintao-Wen Jiabao government embarrasses the world
During the Arab “Jasmine Revolution,” Zhu Yufu posted the poems “It’s time” and “To the Enemy’s Rear” online, as a way to enlighten people. Because of this, he was summoned and detained by the Wangjiang police station, in the Shancheng District the Hangzhou Public Security Bureau on March 5, 2011. On April 11, he was formally arrested for allegedly “inciting subversion of state power.” This was Zhu’s third incarceration for political reasons; he had previously been imprisoned for a total of nine years. He was tried by the Hangzhou Intermediate People’s Court on Jan. 31, 2012 and convicted on Feb. 10, 2012 of “inciting subversion of state power” and sentenced to seven years in prison and three years deprivation of political rights. With credit for time served, his sentence runs from March 5, 2011 to March 4, 2018.
Ms. Ni Yulan, a Beijing human rights lawyer and Christian, started in 2002 to expose the forced demolition of housing in Beijing in advance of the 2008 Olympics Games and was sentenced to a one-year prison term for it. She was so brutally beaten that her legs were permanently disabled. On Feb. 11, 2011, John Huntsman, then U.S. ambassador to China, visited Ni and had a picture taken with her. On April 6, Ni and her husband, Dong Jiqin, were taken into custody by Beijing Xicheng district police for “picking quarrels and provoking trouble,” and the Xicheng district procuratorate approved her formal arrest. Around July 13, the charge of “fraud” was added to her alleged crimes. She was tried on Dec. 29 in Xicheng District Court, but the court did not announce a sentence. On the morning of April, 10, 2012, the Beijing Xicheng District Court sentenced well-known human rights defense lawyer Ni and her husband to prison terms of two-years, eight-months and two years, respectively, for fraud and “picking quarrels and provoking trouble.”
Li Wangyang, a political dissident and Christian from Shaoyang, Hunan province, was a workers’ movement leader in the 1989 pro-democracy protests and was released from prison in 2012 after serving 21 years. Because he had agreed to be interviewed by foreign journalists, Li was suddenly found dead on June 6 in a heavily-guarded hospital in Shaoyang’s Daxiang district . The police maintained that he had “committed suicide by hanging” and quickly cremated his body. Li’s infuriated family hired Christian rights defense lawyer Tang Jingling to file a criminal lawsuit in accordance with the law, but the local Domestic Security Protection agents and others deliberately created difficulties for him and detained him. On July 23, ten Chinese lawyers published an open letter asking the National People’s Congress and its Standing Committee to re-open the investigation into Li Wangyang’s death, but there have been no further developments.
V. Forced abortions in Shaanxi and Hunan; bloody reality shocks the world
On June 2, 2012, in Zeng Family town, Zhenping county, in the city of Ankang, Shaanxi province, Feng Jianmei, more than seven months pregnant, was abducted by local government officials and taken to a hospital where she was forcibly aborted of her unborn baby. Her baby girl was brutally killed. The victim, Feng Jianmei, and her husband, Deng Jiyuan, are both Christians. Mr. Zhang Kai, a young well-known Christian lawyer from Beijing who had handled the infamous “My father is Li Gang” hit-and-run case outside the Hebei University campus and the Qian Yunhui case in Zhejiang province which shocked all of China, boldly and publicly took on this case. Mr. Yang Zhizhu, a former law professor at China Youth College of Political Sciences who has long been concerned about and has condemned the one-child policy, also started to take part in this rights defense case. In the meantime, Zhang Kai also took on the case of Wu Liangjie of Xianyou county, Fujian province, whose wife was aborted of her seven-month unborn son by the government on April 6. Overseas, ChinaAid actively appealed on behalf of this couple and made diplomatic efforts. Eventually, the government gave the two families large sums of money as financial compensation, the first such success in rights defense cases involving “family planning.” On June 6, local family planning officials and government officials in Changsha, Hunan province, dragged Cao Ruyi, who was five months pregnant, to a hospital, beat her, and were about to force her to have an abortion. However, due to the immediate advocacy of ChinaAid, especially a timely letter from Congressman Chris Smith to the Changsha government in Hunan province, as well as the efforts of the international community, Ms. Cao gave birth to her child safely a few months later. On July 5, the European Parliament voted on and passed a “Resolution on the forced abortion scandal in China (2012/2712(RSP)” in response to the tragedy of Feng Jianmei’s forced abortion, strongly condemning the human rights abuses committed in the enforcement of China’s one-child policy. (On June 19, Hu Xia of Zhengjiamen village, Shangche town, Jianli county, Hubei province, was forcibly aborted of her eight-month-old unborn baby by local officials.)
VI. Bishop Thaddeus Ma Daqin publicly rebels against the official Catholic church, wins the praise and support of the Vatican
On July 7, 2012, ignoring the Vatican’s anger and strong protest, China’s official Patriotic Catholic Association conducted ordination ceremonies in Shanghai and Harbin without the approval of the Vatican. In his speech at the ordination mass at St. Ignatius Cathedral in Xujiahui, Shanghai, auxiliary Bishop Ma Daqin (called assistant bishop by the government) of the Shanghai diocese said that, as an auxiliary bishop appointed by the Vatican, he would resign from his position in the Patriotic Association, effective immediately, and would focus on pastoral duties and evangelism. He was later taken away by the authorities and has disappeared. He was reportedly being detained at Sheshan monastery outside Shanghai of which he is a member. Ma Daqin was formerly a member of the Standing Committee of the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association and the deputy director of Shanghai Patriotic Catholic Association. After the incident, the spokesperson of the “one association and one conference,” i.e. the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association and the Bishops Conference of the Catholic Church in China, said on July 11, “Serious violations of the regulations of the Bishops Conference of the Catholic Church in China regarding the appointment of bishops are suspected of having taken place during the ordination mass of Shanghai’s auxiliary bishop on July 7. The ‘one association and one conference’ of the Chinese Catholic Church is currently conducting an investigation and assessment.” In a statement issued after the incident, the Vatican praised Ma Daqin as “admirable and inspiring.”
VII. House church in in Xinjiang’s Hotan suffers continued persecution; minister Zhong Shuguang looks heavenward in faith
On Sunday March 4, 2012, , more than 50 Christians were attending a worship service at an ethic Han Chinese house church in the city of Hotan, in the southern part of the Xinjiang Uyighur Autonomous Region, when it was raided by police and Domestic Security Protection agents. Minister Zhong Shuguang, in whose home the church meets, was taken to the police station and released later the same day. Computers, projectors and other items used in the service were confiscated and later returned. On March 9, Zhong was given a 15-day administrative detention sentence. In April and May, the church hired Christian rights defense lawyers to file for an administrative review and saw good progress. On July 2, the Hotan Public Security Bureau raided the church in retaliation, seizing church items again and putting Zhong under administrative detention again. On Sunday July 22, 17 brothers and sisters from this church, including Zhong Shuguang’s wife, were taken into police custody and released later same day. Since July, the township government has illegally shut off the electric supply to Zhong’s home, and his family has had to rely on candles for illumination at night. The local government told Zhong that house church Christians are not allowed to hold meetings, and would be seized whenever they gathered together; all meetings, regardless of size, are banned. The local government also said that this was due to “Xinjiang’s special situation,” and that there was nothing they could do, and this would not change.
VIII. A “Three-Self” church in Yushu city, Jilin province, is persecuted by the government and developers for refusing to agree to the illegal demolition and relocation of its property
From 2010 to 2012, because of collusion between the real estate developer and the municipal government, Chengjiao Street Christian Church in Yushu City, Jilin Province, was unable to reach an agreement on the demolition and removal of its church buildings, leading to a string of difficulties, threats and harassment. Church members petitioned higher authorities in accordance with the law, but were blocked at every turn. On July 20, 2012, developers beat and injured two women believers. In the three months following the attack, church members tried repeatedly to submit their complaint to various relevant government departments. But the Yushu offices of various national-level government departments refused to accept the complaints about the victims’ medical bills and compensation, and also would not carry out their legal responsibility to investigate the criminal liability of the suspects and their illegal infringement of others’ rights. Having no other recourse, church representatives in October applied for a permit to stage a protest march during which they planned to “bear six banners with slogans…make speeches along the way and shout slogans. ” On Oct. 30, their application was rejected by the Public Security Bureau. After Christian lawyers in Beijing were asked to intervene, church member Lu Yanping representing the majority of the congregation submitted an application for administrative review, seeking a decision on the legality of the Public Security Bureau’s Oct. 30 “Notification of Rejection of Permit for Protest March (Yu, No. 201201). ” Currently, the church’s rights defense activities are still on-going.
IX. Christians were punished for medical services and evangelistic activities in Inner Mongolia; two were sentenced to two years in labor camp
In the morning of July 26, 2012, six Christians set out from the city of Tongliao in Inner Mongolia for rural parts of the autonomous region, stopping in places such as Jarud Banner, Tuquan County in Hinggan League, and the village of Shumugou, in Alide Sumu (township), in the Horqin Right Front Banner, where they held free medical clinics and evangelized among those who came for medical attention. On Aug. 1, they were in the hamlet of Zhongxinpu, in Shumugou village, Horqin Right Front Banner, in the city of Ulanhot, where they were providing medical services to the local people. Around 4 p.m., a local resident warned them that the police might be coming and advised them to leave quickly, which they did. However, they were stopped on the road by Domestic Security Protection agents of the Public Security Bureau, who detained them at the Horqin Right Front Banner police station and confiscated their van, medical equipment including an EKG machine and a laptop. At 5 p.m. on Aug. 3, the Horqin Right Front Banner’s Domestic Security Protection agents called the families of the detainees and said they were being held for “being suspected of using cult activities to interfere with law enforcement.” On Sept. 1, the Re-education Through Labor Management Committee of Hinggan League handed down its decision notification sentencing Ms. Sun Yuefen and Ms. Ren Zhimin to two years in a re-education-through-labor camp. From September to January, authorities detained three others who were involved in this medical-evangelistic effort. With the help of Christian rights defense lawyers, the victims have submitted a request for an administrative review of their case.
X. Christians subjected to three kinds of persecution in Anhui, Guangdong and Shenzhen
Christian college student-volunteers encounter local thugs: On July 16, 2012, when schools were on summer break, a house church in Jiangzhai town, Linquan county, Anhui province, with help from Beijing’s Haidian Church, offered extra summer classes in an effort to help lower the dropout rates of local students. Eighty-two elementary school and middle school students were being tutored by seven college students studying in Beijing. On July 19 and 20, the local Public Security Bureau, Domestic Security Protection agents and government agents raided the class and focibly shut it down. They expelled the college students, and violated the law in law enforcement, verbally and physically abusing church staff and creating a negative impact on society. Some of the student volunteers were subjected to political investigation by their schools after they returned to Beiijng. Lu Gensheng, a church staff member and coordinator of the college students’ volunteer activities, was beaten by government agents and suffered a lower back injury. On Sep. 11, the church’s pastor and all staff members submitted a complaint to the county-level People’s Congress, Public Security Bureau and People’s Prosecutorate, asking that the legal responsibility of two of the perpetrators be investigated in accordance with the law.
Dongguan House Church shut down: On Aug. 20, 2012, Putian House Church in Gaobu town, Dongguan, Guangdong province, was shut down by the township government. The door of the church was sealed and water and electricity supply was cut off. The church had existed for five years and served migrant workers. In accordance with the law, Pastor Du Yaping submitted to the municipal government an application on behalf of the church for administrative review. On Sep. 18, he was notified that the government would not take on the case. The church then filed a lawsuit against the Religious Affairs Bureau and the township government. On Dec. 25, the court gave Du Yaping a written decision turning down the church’s requests for litigation. On Dec. 28, continuing to defend its legitimate religious rights through the law, the church submitted an appeal to Dongguan Intermediate People’s Court.
Shenzhen Church engages in street evangelism, is accused of Qigong activities: On Dec. 8, 2012, Cao Nan, a well-known preacher from the Shenzhen house church, was taken into custody by police from Yuanling Police Station, along with seven lay workers, when they were evangelizing in Lychee Park. They were released the next day. On Dec. 15, Cao Nan was detained again with eight other Christians when they were evangelizing and witnessing for Christ in the park. The others were released late that same night while Cao Nan was transferred to a detention center and held for 13 days under administrative detention. He was accused of engaging in Qigong activities and was held until Dec. 28. The two outdoor evangelistic activities in the park reached large numbers of people, and this pioneering approach will have a lasting and profound impact.