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Fight For Religious Freedom

by Yue Jie

China Aid Association

To read the full story, click here: Fight for Religious Freedom

Respectively on January 8, 2006 and January 15, 2006, the Chinese communist authorities sent a large group of policemen to disrupt the normal Sunday services at Church of Ark. Its conduct is a serious violation of the freedom of religious belief endowed to its citizens by the Constitution of the People’s Republic of China . As a devout Christian, I hereby strongly protest against the way the Chinese communist authorities violated the law with full knowledge of it. I’m willing to fight to the end for the freedom of belief under the guidance of God.

Our Church of Ark is a small house church of only 20 to 30 members. Under the rule of the Chinese Communist Party, all the official churches in Beijing and in the rest of the country are under the control of ” Three-Self Church ” which is an appendage to the government. Its form of existence itself is a serious violation of the principle of separation of the state and the church stipulated in the Bible. There is a great difference between it and the Christian belief based on reality. Therefore, to stick to the true Christian way, we have chosen to conduct our Sunday services at home.

The site where we gather is an ordinary rented residential unit in Wangjing residential district in northeastern part of Beijing . As of now, we have been gathering here for two years. Here, we read the Bible, pray, deliver sermons and attend the sermons. Everything we do here is closely related to our belief and nothing we do here has violated any clauses in the Constitution of the People’s Republic of China . From the very beginning, we have proclaimed that our church is a church above the ground, not an underground church. We have never practiced our belief in a furtive and stealthy way. Our church’s door is always open to all Christians and friends interested in the Word of God. All people who are willing to listen to the Gospel and who yearn for righteousness are welcome to our church.

At six o’clock on the afternoon of January 8, after our Sunday service was over, nine brothers and sisters stayed behind to discuss “Heidelberg Catechism,” “Westminster Creed” and other creeds of the successive churches in the past. About 20 minutes later, there was suddenly a barrage of rapid knockings on the door. A sister went to open the door. As soon as the door was barely opened, eight or nine policemen in uniform dashed in. After they entered the inner room, one of them began to ask us what we were doing there. I reminded him: “You should enforce the law according to law and you should show us your identification papers.” After hesitating for a while, one of the people in the rear reluctantly took out a police officer certificate. Li Baiguang, doctor of law from Beijing University and a brother at Church of Ark , went over and carefully examined this certificate.

We then asked:” Why do you come to inspect this place? Did any crime happen here?” One of the policemen answered:” We have received a 110 call to the police that there is some illegal activity going on here. That’s why we are here. This is our duty as policemen.” We then asked them: “Then, what did the informant say was happening here? You must give us a reason for coming here to inspect, right?” This slim and middle-aged policeman answered: “We can’t tell you because we have to protect the informant.” This was not an answer to the question. We continued to retort them: “We didn’t ask you to disclose the information of the informant, but you must tell us the reason.”

For a long time, they were stalled with words and dared not say for what reasons they came here. Instead, they told us to take out our IDs and tell them our respective phone numbers. A young officer sat on a desk and wrote down the information one by one. At this time, another policeman came in with a digital video camera. Emboldened by the fact he had the protection of the police, he began to videotape us. He did so as if we were ants in his hands completely under his control. I immediately stopped him and said in a serious manner: “You have already violated our portraiture right. Please stop it immediately.” This brazen policeman stopped for a while and then began to videotape the various displays in our living-room.

During this short period of time, Li Baiguang preached the Gospel to the policemen in a flow of eloquence. He suggested that they come to the church in plain clothes next week and personally hear what we talk about here. A policeman waved his hand again and again and said: “Please don’t make things difficult for us. We make a living by working for the government and we don’t have so much freedom as your freelance people.” I thought to myself: “It seems we should appeal for the freedom of the policemen.” The words from another policemen were even more shocking: “Our state religion should be Buddhism and we are all Buddhists. We must not believe in a religion of the West.” The good thing about this is he didn’t flaunt himself as a believer in communism, though there’s a very good chance he is a Party member.

We came to the living-room outside from the inner room and found several policemen were still sitting in the sofa. By this time, even two security guards in this residential compound have come in and two policemen were smoking in a sulky mood in the sofa. I immediately told them bluntly: “This is a non-smoking area. Please don’t smoke here in our rooms. If you want to smoke, please go outside.” Perhaps it was time for these people to get off work and suddenly they were dispatched here to inspect something they were completely unclear of. He was already unhappy and after I reprimanded him, he stood up resentfully and went out of the door.

Another young policeman who looked like their supervisor talked to me instead in a very polite tone: “We are from Nanhu Police Station. We are not supposed to take care of the religious issues. I just asked the police in charge of religious affairs and they said according to regulations on religious affairs enacted by the State Council, no religious activities are allowed in ordinary residential buildings. Fan Yafeng immediately retorted in a loud voice: “The Constitution of People’s Republic of China safeguards citizens’ freedom of religious belief. We respect the Constitution, but not those regulations and rules that contravene the Constitution.” After several rounds of arguments in which we tried to present our sound and solid reasons, the policeman fell silent. After repeated calls to their superiors for instructions, they finally left together in a group. By then, they had illegally restricted our personal freedom for over 30 minutes.

As for this incident that occurred last week, several brothers and sisters of our church had a discussion and decided not to make it public for the time being. We planned to see what the next move of the Chinese communist authorities would be. We made ourselves humble and obedient so as to give the authorities a chance to repent and start anew. Jesus teaches us: “If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. ” We really didn’t want to expose such an ugly conduct immediately to the world’s media because we are ashamed for them. In fact, these policemen and the behind-the-scene manipulators who ordered them to do so are actually pitiful people tied up by sins. We pity them very much.

However, the worse harassment continued to happen. At 4:30 p.m. today (January 15), as we were worshipping and the novelist Brother Beicun was sharing the truth of Genesis with us, there was another round of rapid knockings on the door. While last time the group of uninvited guests visited us after our meeting was over and didn’t affect our normal service, this group of uninvited guests purposely chose a time when we were worshipping and directly disrupted our communion with God. This is a brutal trampling of citizens’ freedom of religious belief.

After the examination, the middle-aged policeman of small stature told us: “Someone called 110 to the police and said the meeting here is disturbing the residents. We are here to check on that claim.” Their remark is exactly the same as last time when policemen came. A sister of ours retorted: “We have been meeting here for two years and no one has ever complained that we are disturbing the neighbors. The security guards here, the girl who runs the elevator and neighbors all know we meet here. Some neighbors have even participated in our gatherings. It is impossible for them to make such a complaint to the police that we are disturbing the residents.” That plain-clothed guy dressed in a brown overcoat said: “You are disturbing the residents. I heard loud talks from outside.” A brother asked him: “Are you a neighbor here? Do you live here?” He nodded. Then, Brother Li Baiguang went over to him and said: “Since you say we are disturbing the residents, we can ask a national-level environmental agency to come here and do a test to see if our noise reaches a level forbidden by the law. The condition is that you must do everything according to the law.” This plain-clothed agent who claimed to be a resident in the neighborhood said: “It is impossible for us to do the test today. Are you purposely making things difficult for us?”

The middle-aged police officer in charge of this operation behaved in a civilized way. He told us: “We didn’t come here today for any religious reasons, but because you are disturbing the neighbors. I hope you will be more careful in the future. Second. According to some relevant laws, yours is a church and you should register it at the relevant authorities. We are here to tell you this.” Hearing this, Attorney Gao Zhisheng stood up and retorted him: “We refuse to register. Our conduct has not violated the law. The Constitution safeguards citizens’ freedom of belief. Only if you are willing to respect the Constitution can we have a dialog.”

The plain-clothed agent who had previously claimed he was a neighbor walked to the center of the room and said in a loud voice: “Are you sure you have not violated the law?” His behavior aroused my deep suspicion. Judging from the way he talked, it is very unlikely that he is merely a resident. I then asked him: “Who are you?” Without much thinking, he gave a contradictory answer: “Oh. I’m like them.” Saying this, he took out a thin booklet from his bag “Regulations on Religious Affairs by State Council.” It seems they had made ample preparation for this encounter. He read all the clauses that require churches to register at the government agencies: “Look. I also have a law in my hand. You should abide by this law,” Li Baiguang, Gao Zhisheng, Wang Guangze, other legal professionals, Jiao Guobiao, Beicun and other people retorted: \”What we abide by is the Constitution, which is the fundamental law of this nation. All other laws and regulations that contravene the Constitution should be canceled. Even this plain-clothed agent dared not openly deny the authority of the Constitution and only defended himself by saying: “There is only one sentence in the Constitution on the freedom of religion. That’s why some laws and regulations are needed to interpret it in details. If you say these laws and regulations contravene the Constitution, you should go to the National People’s Congress. It is of no use to talk to me on that. I just want to enforce this law. ”

Because the police unscrupulously videotaped our private space last time they came here, one of our brothers took a video camera and began to shoot the whole scene in the hope that what he videotaped could be used as evidence. At this time, the plain-clothed agent dressed in a brown coat was furious: “Don’t videotape me! You have violated my portraiture right!”

When we heard this, all the brothers of us walked over and stood in a line. Jiao Guobiao and others denounced him: “Since you are not a law enforcement person, please get out immediately. You have no right to stay in our room!”

The police officer in charge of this operation seemed to have realized this person’s slip of the tongue and he assumed a neutral stand and explained: “We only came here to tell you what we have to tell. Please don’t get excited. We said you should go and register, but we didn’t say you must register. Whether you will register, that’s your concern.” Taking advantage of this opportunity, Wang Guangze said: “Good. Your duty of coming to inform us of this is now fulfilled. Please leave here immediately because we will continue our meeting.” Attorney Gao also warned: “If you still don’t leave, we will sue you.” This police officer looked Gao Zhisheng up and down and said in a sarcastic way: “You look very familiar. I may have seen you somewhere.” Attorney Gao said with a smile: “Of course you have seen me. Don’t you put up a show like this” Then, these four people left reluctantly. That day, our sermon was interrupted for over half an hour.

This action by the so-called law enforcement people was a serious violation of citizens’ freedom of belief, personal freedom and property rights of citizens. These two incidents of harassment in two different styles are only the beginning. More harassment of more sinister in nature will surely follow. Our rental of the housing unit will expire next month and the landlord called us half a month ago and told us in an evasive tone that he was not going to renew the rental contract with us. We understand that the landlord must have got pressure from some people because he and we had been on very good terms with each other before and we usually paid the rent ahead of schedule. The Chinese communist authorities hopes to destroy our church by taking away its very foundation. Yet, little do they know that our Church of Ark was founded with the permission and blessing of God and God has even counted our hair. How can Jesus Christ let Satan succeed in his conspiracy and how can Jesus Christ let our church disappear like flowing sands? The Chinese communist authorities may make us lose our sites of gathering through all types of means, but it can never sever the close and eternal relationship we have with God.

Our freedom of religious belief is protected by the United Nations Charter, Universal Declaration of Human Rights, United Nations International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Constitution of the People’s Republic of China. No one can deprive us of these rights. Since we have already become Christians, and since we have already gained the hope of an eternal life in Jesus Christ, how can we be afraid of you machines of violence that can kill only the physical body of man but not the man’s soul? Though we are bare-handed, we will still fight for our freedom of belief. Superficially, this is a war between two armies with a great disparity in strength. Our weapon is our belief while they have millions of armed policemen, military policemen and special agents. However, with Jesus Christ as our lord and king, who can ever vanquish us?

In the words of American philosopher Cook, a good friend of Martin Luther King, we also know very well that “freedom is not a gift, but an achievement which you have fought for. From a historical and ethical perspective, freedom is an achievement after numerous struggles, tragic failures, tears, sacrifices and sorrows. Our sons and daughter under bright light should stick to the doctrines we are supposed to stick to and get on the road we are supposed to get on. We should bring along with us the weapons of light and win this beautiful battle. Our freedom of belief is closely related to the damaged freedom of belief of brothers and sisters in tens of thousands of house churches in China . As long as one Christian is still left in the prison, as long as one house church is closed, we are not free people and we should weep with those who are weeping and we should be tied up with those who are tied up. We must pray for them and cry out for them and fight for them. Our gatherings will not stop and we will not abandon our belief. May God be with us and may light shine completely on the darkness.