Targeted by the Secret Police: An Interview with a Chinese Believer
By Gina Goh
07/01/2022 Washington D.C. (International Christian Concern) – A month after Beijing’s crackdown of online religious activities, many wonder how the Christians in China are doing in terms of virtual worship and gathering. Are they being targeted, banned, or arrested for conducting “illegal” religious activities?
International Christian Concern recently interviewed a Christian leader, Gianni, from a heavily persecuted Chengdu-based house church via encrypted messaging app. His answers provide a glimpse into the persistent challenges our brothers and sisters in China face.
How are you using technology to spread the gospel, gather, and communicate?
In my religious life, I use technology for communication on two fronts. First, is to publicly witness and spread the gospel. I use social media that is used within China, mainly WeChat and its public account. Second, [I use technology to] serve at church. I would use Telegram, which is blocked in China, so I need to employ VPN [to gain access]. For worship, we use Zoom.
Has technology made it easier to keep the underground church alive?
From a church-building perspective, technology has provided a minimum guarantee. When house churches are cracked down, there is at least a basic connection between the leadership team and the congregation, or members to members. That way, the flock will not disperse completely if being struck. Without internet, gathering and the link between Christians would be very weak, scattered, and in smaller scale. With this technology, now we can still maintain online gatherings with more than 500 participants.
What fears do you have about detection from the government?
I am not afraid of the government’s secret investigation. Our faith is “declare with your mouth and believe in your heart,” publicly testifying for Him in the name of Jesus Christ. It is neither the church’s responsibility nor does it have the capacity to counter the investigation. We are a fellowship formed by God’s children, not a spy agency. [Our purpose] is so that the souls live in truth, freedom, and joy, not to make our flesh more secure.
How difficult is it to circumvent government detection?
From a technical side, it is not difficult. The server of our app is set up overseas, so the government cannot obtain user information from the back end. In fact, scouting is more difficult for the government. To thoroughly monitor a person all day, you need enormous manpower, resources, and refined technology. Our government is incapable of doing that at the moment.
I have dealt with their law enforcement departments for a while now, and I have discovered that they are, in fact, frail and clumsy.
What would you like Christians in the West to know and understand about your situation? How can Christians in the West help you?
Our church usually shares and updates our information to tell the world what is happening to us, while asking everyone to pray for us. Though house churches in China have endured a tremendous crackdown, it has not reached the point where I lose my freedom, or my life is under threat. Since I have not lost faith, I will try to keep living my life to do the following: share the gospel with people in freedom and joy, receive new brothers and sisters and disciple them, and send preachers to plant churches.
If I shall be incarcerated, then so be it. Nothing will separate us from the love of Christ.
Therefore, I do not think I lack anything. Perhaps, living in China, continuously experiencing deprivation and loss, is a greater path that is gifted to us by God. Brothers and sisters in the West, please pay attention to our situation and pray for us. We would be grateful for that.
Gianni has been detained several times by the local authorities. The landlord of his rented apartment repeatedly threatened him. Electricity and water at his home were shut off by the police. The keyhole to his apartment’s door was filled with glue. All of this took place because he refused to budge and leave his house church to join a government-vetted Three-Self church.
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