Prominent China Christian Lawyer Survives “Assassination” Attempt
Stefan J. Bos
BEIJING , CHINA – A lead defense lawyer for a detained Beijing House Church Pastor Cai Zhuohua was recovering Wednesday, January 18, after reportedly surviving an assassination attempt by Chinese security agents.
The lawyer, Gao Zhisheng, said the incident happened Tuesday, January 17, while driving near the Asia Sports Game Village , in northwest Beijing .
“A mysterious car with its license plate covered by newspaper suddenly stopped in front” of the car, he said in a message distributed by religious rights group China Aid Association (CAA).
Gao, a Christian, was able to stop his car “just inches from the car in front” of him. When he exited his car and walked to the front of the mysterious vehicle “it began moving toward him and he had to jump out of the way to avoid being run over,” added CAA, which has close contacts with him and other allegedly persecuted Christians.
Throughout the whole accident ordeal, a military vehicle had been on the scene, Gao said. He and human rights workers have linked the attack to Gao’s efforts to defend Pastor Cai, who was accused of printing and distributing thousands of Bibles.
Pastor Cai Zhuohua, his wife Xiao Yunfei and her brother Xiao Gaowenone, received a combined prison sentence of nearly seven years in prison November 8, on charges of “illegal business practices” after security forces raided a warehouse where they reportedly discovered 237,000 copies of the Bible and other Christian publications in September last year.
Gao’s law firm was suspended for one year and his law license was revoked by the Beijing Beau of Justice in December 2005 after his case received international attention. In addition his wife and daughter were allegedly “stalked” by secret service agents.
“They are not immune to the barbarity of a public authority that has gone completely roguish. Merely because of their relationship to me, not because of what they do, they were closely stalked for over 70 days by the Chinese government with underworld means. Their stalking of my daughter for over 70 days has become the most obscene record in the human history of governments,” he said.
News of his difficulties came just days after on January 8 and 15, a well-known Beijing House Church was raided during their Sunday services by Beijing Public Security Bureau (PSB) agents, CAA said.
Several other house churches in Beijing were also raided, the organization added.
Among other incidents on January 4, a house church in Dayinjia Village of Jilin Province was reportedly raided where 40 believers were gathered. Last month, just before Christmas, Pastor Jin Tianming, “a pastor of at least 9 house churches in Haidian District,” was also detained and questioned at a police station for one night, said CAA. Dozens of other leaders in his church were also apparently questioned.
All leaders detained in the reported incidents were believed to have been released after a brief detention, but many other House Church leaders and believers are still jailed, CAA and other rights groups say. CAA said it also learned that the mother of jailed Pastor Cai Zhuohua was denied the right to meet with her son on January 9 because his case “was posted on the Internet and Pastor Cai’s defense lawyers” were called “counter revolutionaries.”
The Chinese government has strongly denied accusations of human rights abuses. It says Christians are allowed to worship in the two officially organized churches of China — the Protestant Three Self Patriotic Movement (12 million members) and the Catholic Patriotic Association (5 million members).
However Christian rights group Open Doors said recently that most of the estimated up to 80-million Christians in China prefer to worship without interference by the government. They mostly gather in ‘House Churches’, named his way as their members are forced to gather in secret, often in homes of Christians.