Breaking News:
After their eviction, Guangfu House
Church held a Sunday gathering in the
hall outside their former meeting place
on May 31, 2015.
(Photo: China Aid)

China Aid
By Brynne Lawrence
(Guangzhou—July 28, 2015) Around fifty Guangzhou officials raided the Guangfu House Church in Baiyun District on Thursday during a church gathering, confiscated its belongings, and apprehended several attendees.

Wu, a pastor at the church, informed China Aid’s reporter that the officials sealed the door of the church and refused to show their identification. He also said that they brought four church members, including himself, another pastor, a church member and the wife of the church’s leader, Ma Chao, to the Yongping Subdistrict Police Station and detained them for over seven hours. During this time, the church members requested that the officials return the church’s property or even give the Christians a list of the confiscated items, but they refused. Wu recounts that, “…[the officials] said we were disturbing public order and resisting the law.”

Government officials began persecuting this house church earlier this year. On May 22, the Baiyun District Religious Affairs Bureau issued the church a command to “end religious activities immediately” with the consequence of being shut down. Two days later, they sent over a hundred officers to confiscate property and arrest church members. Additionally, they forced over 20 Christians holding a meeting outside the sealed church door to leave.

Ma, a church leader, filed an indictment against the religious affairs bureau, but the court refused to investigate. He hired a lawyer to defend the legal rights of the church.

China Aid Contacts
Rachel Ritchie, English Media Director
Cell: (432) 553-1080 | Office: 1+ (888) 889-7757 | Other: (432) 689-6985
Hong Kong Free Press
27 July 2015 15:51
Vivienne Zeng

Photo: 林鹏程萬里 via Weibo
Christians in eastern China’s Zhejiang Province have launched a cross making and wearing campaign amid a year-long “clean-up movement” by the local government to remove exterior church crosses.
A Christian based in Wenzhou uploaded pictures on the social media platform Weibo showing people making crosses out of wood and painting them red in what appeared to be a small workshop.

Zhejiang Christian churches urged believers to hang crosses up at home and wear them, a message posted by the Weibo user along with the pictures said, adding “Let the cross take a root in everyone’s heart”.

Photo: 林鹏程萬里 via Weibo
On the same day, Father Chen Kaihua posted a similar message on Weibo calling on churches in other parts of the country to “join the relay” in the “safe and legal non-violent disobedience movement.”

“Tomorrow you will see crosses everywhere in Zhejiang,” Father Chen, who is teaching at the Sichuan Catholic Seminary, said on Weibo.
The campaign is part of a backlash against the Zhejiang government’s continuous removal of exterior church crosses on the grounds that they are illegal building structures and pose safety hazards. Officials have been taking down crosses from churches since 2014. According to the Gospel Herald, an online Christian newspaper, over 1,200 church crosses have been taken down in the past a year and a half in Zhejiang.
Photo: 点点冷月 via Weibo

Photo: HSALON via Weibo
Maya Wang, Asia researcher at Human Rights Watch, said the cross removing campaign is part of the Chinese government’s unprecedented attack on civil society.

“The government has always been suspicious about religions — it tightly controls religious beliefs and expressions and Chinese people can only believe in five official religious. But it’s important to point out that many of the churches with crosses removed by the government are official churches recognised by the government. The fact that these churches are now under renewed official scrutiny is a sign that authorities’ already-low tolerance for religious activities has fallen to a new low under President Xi,” Wang said.

Photo: 点点冷月 via Weibo
In May, pictures emerged on the internet showing a cross on top of the Huzhen Church in Lishui City on fire as it was being removed. Officials denied they intended to burn the cross, saying it caught fire by itself.
On Friday Bishop Zhu Weifang of Wenzhou Diocese led a group of priests in a protest against church cross demolitions in front of the Wenzhou government, calling on the government to “safeguard religious dignity.”
In Hong Kong, about a dozen Christians marched to Beijing’s liaison office in Sai Wan on Sunday to protest about the church cross removal campaign.

China Aid Contacts
Rachel Ritchie, English Media Director
Cell: (432) 553-1080 | Office: 1+ (888) 889-7757 | Other: (432) 689-6985
The Guardian
Tom Phillips in Beijing
Last modified on Monday 27 July 201502.20 EDT

More than 1200 crosses have been torn down by authorities in the past two years sparking anger and street protests

Christian leaders – including an 89-year-old bishop – have taken to the streets of eastern China to protest against an “evil” campaign to remove crosses that many see as a coordinated Communist party attack on their faith.

A man stands near the razed remains of a Catholic church in a
village in Pingyang county of Wenzhou  in eastern China's
Zhejiang province. Authorities have forcibly removed hundreds
rooftop crosses from Protestant and Catholic churches in the region.
Photograph: Didi Tang/AP
Activists say more than 1,200 crosses have been stripped from churches in Zhejiang province since the government initiative began in late 2013. There has been a spike in such actions in recent weeks.

On Friday, around 20 Catholic clergy staged a rare public demonstration in Wenzhou – a coastal city known as the “Jerusalem of the East” – including Vincent Zhu Weifang, its elderly bishop.

A banner unfurled outside government offices by the group read: “Maintaining religious dignity and opposing the forced removal of crosses”.

Chinese police monitored the two-hour protest but did not break it up, according to UCA News, the Catholic agency.

Zhejiang is home to one of China’s largest Christian congregations with an estimated 300,000 Catholics and one million Protestants split between government-sanctioned and underground “house” churches.

Towering red church crosses – visible for miles around – once dotted the city’s skyline but many of the most prominent been forcibly removed since the campaign began. In some cases, entire churches have been reduced to rubble.

Authorities insist they are attacking illegal building practices not religion. The cross removals appeared to have petered out towards the start of this year.

However, recent months have seen an escalation in removal operations in cities including Wenzhou, Hangzhou and Lishui.

One church leader, whose name is being withheld to protect him from retaliation, said authorities were attempting to transform Christianity “into a tool that serves the party”.

“What they are doing feels like something from the Cultural Revolution era,” he complained, referring to the period in the 1960s when churches and temples were ransacked and destroyed by Chairman Mao’s Red Guards.

Many Christian activists believe president Xi Jinping – who recently warned that religion should be independent from foreign influence – has given at least tacit approval to the removals.

There was outrage in May after online photographs appeared to show a cross on one Zhejiang church going up in flames.

A report in the Global Times, a state-run tabloid, denied the Christian symbol had been intentionally torched.

With frustration building, both Catholic and Protestant leaders from Wenzhou’s official church have become increasingly vocal.

In an open letter earlier this month Catholic officials lamented the removals as “an evil act” that had “caused great resentment and anger among clergy and believers”.

“Removing crosses means destroying believers’ faith as well as destroying love and indulging hatred,” the letter added.

Protestant preachers are encouraging their congregations to peacefully oppose the removals by placing homemade wooden crosses in their homes or on their cars.

“Each time they take a cross down, we will put more up,” the Zhejiang church leader said. “We are even considering making flags and clothes with cross patterns. We will make the cross flourish throughout China.”

The removals have also sparked international condemnation with activists urging Barack Obama to raise the issue with president Xi Jinping, when he makes his first state visit to the United States in September.

Following a congressional hearing last week, Marco Rubio, the Republican presidential candidate, said: “Without question, religious freedom is under assault in China.”

However, such repression “arguably had the unintended consequence of infusing many of these religious adherents with greater vibrancy as evidenced most dramatically by the explosive growth of Christianity in China,” Rubio added.

Additional reporting by Luna Lin

China Aid Contacts
Rachel Ritchie, English Media Director
Cell: (432) 553-1080 | Office: 1+ (888) 889-7757 | Other: (432) 689-6985
Churches in China are often closed for
not complying with government demands.
(Photo: China Aid Stock Photo)
China Aid
By Brynne Lawrence

(Zunyi, Guizhou—July 27, 2015) Officials in China’s inland Guizhou province threatened to shut down a house church in Zunyi if it does not register as a government-supervised Three-Self Patriotic Movement (TSPM) church, despite the church previously obtaining legal approval to construct a building.

A church employee surnamed Mou told a reporter that, “Before we started construction on the church in 2013, the local land administration bureau issued the approval certificate for us to build the church. We paid the money, and the government allowed us to build it. After we finished building the church in July 2014, the government said we didn’t have the proper documentation and that they would shut down the house of God. We filed a lawsuit with the court, and they will hear the case within six months.”

Mou said the church has hired a lawyer to bring suit against the local religious affairs bureau and public security bureau.

China Aid’s reporter called the local religious affairs bureau to inquire about the situation. The responding official informed him that, “According to the law, it is illegal for a house church to construct a building” and that “…temples or religious buildings need to be approved by the provincial government, not through our county.”

The Tongzi County church fears the officials will execute their threat, since they already experience pressure for refusing to join the TSPM. Mou informed the reporter that officials claim the local TSPM church lacks members and encourages the church members to register with the government-sanctioned congregation.

This threat follows a series of Chinese house church persecutions occurring in different areas of the country. On Thursday morning, the government raided the recently persecuted Guangfu House Church in Guangzhou and confiscated all of its properties. The police summoned over 10 Christians and accused them of participating in illegal church services. At this time, the church is trying to defend its rights through legal procedures.

China Aid Contacts
Rachel Ritchie, English Media Director
Cell: (432) 553-1080 | Office: 1+ (888) 889-7757 | Other: (432) 689-6985
Net TV: Currents

In Zhejiang province, where Christianity has surged in recent years, the government has removed hundreds of crosses in an escalating campaign of religious repression. Speaking with Chinese Christian activist Bob Fu, Konrad Aderer learns that a dangerous confrontation may be brewing as Christians even from government-approved churches protest the desecrations.

China Aid Contacts
Rachel Ritchie, English Media Director
Cell: (432) 553-1080 | Office: 1+ (888) 889-7757 | Other: (432) 689-6985
Christian Today
Mark Woods
22 July 2015

The president of human rights organisation China Aid will tell a US Congressional hearing tomorrow that the Government should be much tougher on China over religious persecution.

Bob Fu has been called to give evidence to the Congressional-Executive Commission on China in a hearing titled "Religion with 'Chinese Characteristics'".

He told Christian Today: "I want to see the US Government abolish the annual human rights dialogue because it is useless, a toothless show." He said China used the dialogues as a cover for continuing abuses and that human rights should be an integral part of talks on economic and business affairs.

He also said he would call for a global 'Magnitsky Act', legislation used to call to account Russian officials held responsible for the death in prison of the lawyer Sergei Magnitsky and involving travel bans and the freezing of assets.

Bob Fu, founder of China Aid, is to testify before a
Congressional Committee.
Fu said the Chinese government had begun an organised crackdown on Christianity because of its remarkable growth over the last few decades, instigated by the President Xi Jinping. Persecution was particularly marked in Wenzhou, known as the 'Jerusalem of the East' for the number of its churches. According to Fu, around 1,500 churches had been demolished or had their crosses taken down in the province, and significantly, almost all were officially recognised congregations. "This is unprecedented," he said. "It is the first time this has happened since the Cultural Revolution."

He said there were signs that persecution was spreading to other provinces as well and that in keeping with Chinese practice for major policies, one province – Wenzhou – had been used as a testbed.

Fu said: "You would think that the Church's contribution to the stability of society – its charitable work with the needy and with victims – would be praised. But it is the nature of the Communist Party that it will not tolerate competition for minds and hearts. Christianity has grown so fast that Christians outnumber Communist Party members. The whole purpose of this is to control the 'overheated' growth of Christianity. They are nervous not just about Christianity but of any organised civil group."

Fu said President Barack Obama's administration had taken a "business-oriented" approach and was more reluctant to make human rights an issue. "That is a strategic mistake," he said, adding that it showed the US as "weak, intimidated by China's economic power into ignoring and downgrading core values".

"That just encourages more abuse."

He continued: "If a government starts arbitrarily abusing its own citizens – good citizens – and disregarding the rule of law, how much can they be trusted as an international partner and stakeholder in the business field?"

According to China Aid, Christians are not the only ones to suffer from laws against religion. New laws issued this year view "cults" and strong religious adherence among Uyghur Muslims as national security problems, legitimising draconian restrictions against this population. Efforts have made to undermine the Dalai Lama's influence among Tibetans and control the selection of Buddhist leaders. Falun Gong practitioners continue to face efforts to eradicate their spiritual practice, through torture, detention in 'transformation centres', and organs have been harvested from prisoners.

Lawyers who defend vulnerable religious groups and other "sensitive cases" face disbarment, detention, and physical violence.

China Aid Contacts
Rachel Ritchie, English Media Director
Cell: (432) 553-1080 | Office: 1+ (888) 889-7757 | Other: (432) 689-6985
World Magazine
China | J.C. Derrick

WASHINGTON—Human rights and religious practice are increasingly eroding in China, according to several witnesses who testified Thursday before the Congressional-Executive China Commission.

“In the last 18 months, religious freedom abuses have reached levels not seen since the Cultural Revolution” of the 1960s and ’70s, said Bob Fu, president of ChinaAid, a U.S.-based human rights organization.

The hearing came as the United States prepares in September to host Chinese President Xi Jinping for the first time. It also came amid an ongoing crackdown against numerous groups in China.

Chinese President Xi Jinping
Associated press/Ivan Sekretarev, Pool
“China gets a pass on human rights—they have for far too long,” said Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J., who chairs the bicameral commission with Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla.

Since last year, the communist government has systematically removed hundreds of crosses from atop churches—totaling more than 1,500, according to Fu—and completely destroyed some churches. Fu said the harassment has for the first time extended beyond unapproved house churches and to the government-approved Three-Self churches. He called on the U.S. State Department and President Barack Obama to officially condemn China’s actions against churches.

Rebiya Kadeer, president of the World Uyghur Congress, told the panel Chinese officials increased their pressure on Muslims during Ramadan in 2015. Muslims were not allowed to take off work during Ramadan, and some were reportedly forced to eat or drink in public—including children in schools—to demonstrate they were not fasting.

“I don’t know anywhere in the world where Muslims are persecuted like the Uyghur Muslims in China,” Smith said.

This month China launched a crackdown on human rights lawyers, detaining some 50 in an operation that now includes more than 200 who have been detained, questioned, or reported missing. Fu said the number of imprisoned dissidents in the first 21 months of Xi Jinping’s presidency surpasses the 10-year total of his predecessor.

“This action shows the Xi Jinping administration has no intention of following its own law—let alone international law,” Fu said. He urged the Obama administration to cancel or postpone Xi’s September visit, unless China releases the jailed human rights lawyers: “With them in their dark cells of Chinese prison, I don’t see the benefit of a visit from Xi Jinping.”

Other witnesses at the hearing included Voice of America’s Losang Gyatso, who detailed ongoing oppression of Tibetan Buddhists, and Anastasia Lin, Miss World Canada 2015. Lin, a Canadian citizen whose family is in China, said her relatives have been threatened because she advocates for Chinese human rights. They in turn pressure her to stop speaking out. She said this is common for persons with family still in China.

“I think it would be shocking to most Americans to know that people living in this country, possibly American citizens, are being extorted through blackmail,” Rubio said.

China Aid Contacts
Rachel Ritchie, English Media Director
Cell: (432) 553-1080 | Office: 1+ (888) 889-7757 | Other: (432) 689-6985
Epoch Times
Chinese security forces have recently escalated attacks on religious belief
By Gary Feuerberg, Epoch Times
Last Updated: July 26, 2015 1:55 pm

WASHINGTON—Freedom of religion has always been restricted in communist China, but in recent months, state control and interference have never been worse since the Cultural Revolution, according to testimony given at a congressional hearing.

The Congressional-Executive Commission on China on July 23 heard from representatives of Falun Gong, Tibetan Buddhists, Uyghur Muslims and Christians in China, who discussed new forms of persecution in their respective faith communities.

Miss World Canada Anastasia Lin (R) shakes hands with U.S.
Representative Chris Smith (L) in Washington D.C. on July 23,
2015. (Li Sha/Epoch Times)
Chairman Chris Smith (R-N.J.) introduced the hearing with the statement, “Chinese authorities are frightened by the simple proposition that individuals have a right to live out their beliefs openly and peacefully, without fear and intimidation.” To demonstrate his point, he listed several examples, including, “Over 1,200 crosses, along with 35 church buildings, were demolished since 2014. This was done reportedly because they were too prominent,” he said.

Chairman Smith and Cochairman Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) opening statements highlighted the July 10 roundup of human rights defenders. Smith said, “The lawyers were accused of being a ‘criminal gang’ charged with ‘creating chaos,’ because they defended the rights of Falun Gong, Uyghurs, Christians, and others persecuted.”

“It is amazing, shocking to a lot of people, that perhaps American citizens are being extorted and/or blackmailed due to safety and security of their own relatives in China.”
— Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.)

Senator Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Cochairman of the Congressional
-Executive Commission on China, listens and questions witnesses
at a hearing on "Religion with 'Chinese Characteristics': Persecution
& Control in Xi Jinping's China, July 23. (Gary Feuerberg/
Epoch Times)
Rubio’s statement said that 200 lawyers were detained, interrogated, or missing, which he characterized as the most severe crackdown on the legal profession since 1980 when the legal system was established after the Cultural Revolution.

Both Smith and Rubio connected the crackdown on lawyers to China’s religious suppression, pointing out that many of those detained were practicing Christians, and had taken on the defense of high-profile individuals, who dared “to live out their religious and spiritual convictions,” said Rubio.

Communist Party Threatens Canadian Actress’ Family

Anastasia Lin, actress, Canadian citizen, and recently crowned Miss World Canada, spoke about the pressure on her father in China, after she won the 2015 title. Initially, he said he was very proud of her, but after a few days, he told her to stop her advocacy for human rights in China, or else he would have to sever contact. She said she was concerned that her testimony at this hearing would make her father worried for his business and family in China.

Anastasia Lin, Toronto-based actress and 2015 Miss World
Canada, testifies on the persecution of Falun Gong in China on
July 23 before the Congressional-Executive Commission on
China. (Li Shha/Epoch TImes)
Lin was indignant that as a Canadian citizen, “upholding Canadian values on the other side of the world,” her father is threatened by Chinese security agents. She mentioned that she plays a woman imprisoned for practicing Falun Gong in the film, “Bleeding Edge,” to be released this winter. Though the character portrayed is tortured, the hardest scene for Lin was when her family members are brought before her and made to kneel and beg her to give up her belief. Lin said that although she personally had never experienced torture or what prison guards would do to her, “I now understand what it means to feel deep fear that my convictions could be paid for by people I love the most in the world.”

Rubio said, “It is amazing, shocking to a lot of people, that perhaps American citizens are being extorted and/or blackmailed due to safety and security of their own relatives in China.”

China’s communist regime also puts pressure on countries to accept their policy of destroying Falun Gong. Lin mentioned the 56 Chinese Falun Gong practitioners seeking refuge in South Korea who are threatened with deportation. Despite letters from members of Congress and the European Parliament, since 2002, very few Falun Gong practitioners have received asylum in South Korea. Chairman Smith said, “You can count on each of those [56 Chinese Falun Gong practitioners], I think, of going back to persecution. Incarceration is near certain, certainly harassment,” he said.

“I now understand what it means to feel deep fear that my convictions could be paid for by people I love the most in the world.”
— Anastasia Lin, actress, human rights activist, 2015 Miss World Canada

Lin said that because of her profession as an actress, she is intimately familiar with the torture methods used on Falun Gong practitioners. “Prison guards put bamboo sticks under their fingernails. Women are tortured with electric batons on their private parts and raped.” She also referred to common torture methods of beatings and” violent force-feedings that often puncture the esophagus or lungs.”

Beginning her acting career at age seven, Ms. Lin has appeared in over 20 films and television productions about human rights in China. Having won the Miss World Canada title, Lin will be representing Canada in the global Miss World competition, to be held this December in Sanya, China. “At least that is my hope,” she said. “Recent events leave me uncertain.”

Uyghurs Face Humiliating Regulations

Rebiya Kadeer, president of the World Uyghur Congress,
confers with her translator. Kadeer advocates on July 23 for
human rights of the Uyghur people in communist Chinaa before
the Congressional-Executive Commission on China. (Gary
Feuerberg/Epoch Times)
Despite China’s constitution and the Regional Ethnic Autonomy Law, supposed to guarantee religious freedom, the Uyghur people in East Turkestan are subjected to near total control of their religious beliefs and practices by the Chinese Communist Party. Evidently, the CCP views with suspicion Uyghurs who continue with their religious practices. Rabiya Kadeer, president of the World Uyghur Congress, cited several accounts, widely reported in the media, of restrictions placed on Uyghurs’ ability to observe the Ramadan fast. She spoke through her English translator, Alim Seytoff, president of the Uyghur American Association. Ms. Kadeer, mother of 11 children, was a well-known, highly successful businesswoman in China until she was declared an enemy of the Party and spent six years in a Chinese prison.

Unconfirmed reports on social media said that Uyghurs were forced “to eat watermelon in public to demonstrate non-observance of the fast,” she said. She believes these reports to be credible because they are consistent with numerous accounts from Uyghurs, particularly students, “who are required to drink water at school of teachers to ‘prove’ that are following school and government regulations.”

She also cited an escalation of provocations against the Islamic faith. On the eve of Ramadan in the predominately Uyghur settlement of Niya, a beer drinking contest was organized. She said it “a humiliation of the Islamic faith and “an attack on Uyghur people’s belief.”

Absolute Control of Tibetan Buddhism

Losang Gyatso, service chief of Voice of America's Tibetan
Service, testifies, July 23, before the Congressional-Executive
Commission on China, on the communist control and
interference in Tibetan Buddhism religious practices. (Gary
Feuerberg/Epoch Times)
Losang Gyatso, service chief of Voice of America’s Tibetan Service, said the oppressive environment created by the Party has triggered the self-immolation protests of over 140 Tibetans since 2009. The most recent instance occurred on July 9, when a 27-year-old monk, named Sonam Topgyal, set himself on fire at a public square in Kyegudo, Qinghai Province, making him the sixth Tibetan self-immolation to take place since the beginning of the year. Chinese authorities took him away and he is believed to have died.

A note he wrote one week before his act reveals his desperation. “At a time when the government is carrying out policies to stamp out our religion, tradition, and culture, and destroy our environment, there is absolutely no freedom of expression for the people, and there is no channel to appeal our situation.”
Another recent occurence was concerning the prison death on July 12 of Tenzin Delek Rinpoche, a widely respected Lama and political prisoner. His family and the monastic community were barred from seeing him since 2013, and on the day that Chinese authorities said he died. They needed the body returned in order to conduct a funeral appropriate for a high Lama. Tibetans pleading for the return of his body were beaten severely on July 13, said Gyatso. Several days later, his family and some monks were allowed to see the body in the detention center, where he was then cremated at the prison facility.

“By the end of June this year, more than 1,500 churches had their crosses forcibly demolished or removed in Zhejiang province.”
— Pastor Bob Fu, founder and president, ChinaAid Association

Gyatso said that Tibetans will see the prison cremation “as a humiliating and degrading act, and therefore understand it to be an added punishment for those who had been pleading his innocence for 13 years, and then pleading for his remains after his death,” said Gyatso.

Bob Fu (r), house church pastor and founder and president of
ChinaAid Association, and Congressman Chris Smith (R-N.J.)
converse, on July 23, before a hearing on religious persecution
in China begins. Fu will give testimony at the Congressional-
Executive Commission on China on the persecution of Christians
in China. (Gary Feuerberg/Epoch Times)
Gyatso was worried about the long-term effect of the CCP’s interference in the selection of reincarnate Tibetan spiritual masters. He said this interference undermines the foundation of Tibetan Buddhism by breaking “the trust and faith that Tibetans have invested in their Lamas for hundreds of years,” and could lead to “the eventual demise of Tibetan Buddhism as it has been practiced since the 13th century.”

Christians: Demolitions of Churches and Crosses

Bob Fu, president, ChinaAid Association, said that the suppression of house churches of Christians has “escalated significantly” in the past 18 months.

“According to information collected by ChinaAid, by the end of June this year, more than 1,500 churches had their crosses forcibly demolished or removed in Zhejiang province … with more than 1,300 Christians having been interrogated, arrested, or held in custody for protesting or attempting to prevent the destruction of their churches or crosses,” said Pastor Fu.

Even the government-sanctioned “Three-Self” churches are subject to extreme state persecution campaigns. In the past month in the cities of Hangzhou and Jinhua, the crosses of Protestant and Catholic government sanctioned churches were destroyed or removed.

Fu added: “The government sponsored campaign to destroy the crosses of predominately government sanctioned churches reflects a new development in religious persecution in China.”

China Aid Contacts
Rachel Ritchie, English Media Director
Cell: (432) 553-1080 | Office: 1+ (888) 889-7757 | Other: (432) 689-6985
China Aid
By Rachel Ritchie

(Washington, D.C.—July 24, 2015) China Aid president and founder, Bob Fu, gave his testimony concerning religious freedom in China yesterday to the Congressional-Executive Commission on China in Washington, D.C.

Fu gave several recommendations during the hearing, titled “Religious with ‘Chinese Characteristics’: Persecution and Control in Xi Jinping’s China,” including the following for the United States Department of State:

• “The U.S. State Department should strongly consider posting an officer at the U.S. Embassy in China with the sole responsibility of reporting religious freedom and related human rights abuses in China, including the areas of Tibet and Xinjiang.”

• “The State Department should make an official public statement condemning this forced demolition of crosses and churches in Zhejiang and other areas of China. So far neither Secretary Kerry nor the spokesperson have issued even a public statement condemning this large, brutal, shameful campaign.”

China Aid President Bob Fu gave his testimony about
increasing religious persecution in China on July 23, 2015.
(Photo: China Aid)
• “The State Department should raise, publicly and at all levels of exchange with the Chinese government, the cases of prisoners of conscience, especially the China 18 and others. And I know you had led the campaign to urge President Obama to meet with the daughters of the China 18 multiple times. I think the excuse [of] not meeting with these family members in China is that it could pose a danger or [is] a potential threat. But how about here in the United States; there is no threat.”

Others that spoke at the hearing, led by Congressmen Chris Smith, (R-N.J.) and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), included Anastasia Lin, actress, human rights advocate and Miss World Canada 2015; Rebiya Kadeer, president of the World Uyghur Congress; and Losang Gyatso, service chief of Voice of America’s Tibetan service.

Fu’s full testimony, below, and the testimony of the other witnesses, along with a video of the hearing can be found here.

Religious Freedom, Human Rights, and Rule of Law Deteriorating Rapidly in China Bob Fu, President China Aid

Congressional-Executive Commission on China Religion With “Chinese Characteristics” Persecution and Control in Xi Jinping’s China July 23, 2015

Honorable Chairman Congressman Smith, Co-Chairman Senator Rubio, Members of the Congressional-Executive Commission on China, and distinguished guests:

This is the third year of President Xi Jinping’s Administration in China, whose policies and actions have raised alarm, and in some cases astonished the international community. Domestically, Xi has purged his political rivals through a “selective anti-corruption campaign” and monopolized power within the leadership of the Communist party, the government and the military. In foreign policy, Xi has adopted a dangerous and aggressive agenda, challenging existing international law and creating his own when deemed necessary, including the national security law, which is being viewed by many as a pretext for human rights abuses. This antagonistic and arrogant approach to governance over the past two and half years has earned Xi the nickname “Chairman Mao Junior” and “Xi-tler.”

In the past two years, human rights and rule of law in China have rapidly deteriorated. The number of dissidents taken into police custody, arrested and convicted since Xi took power has exceeded the total number that occurred during the 10-year reign of President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao. Chinese citizens who peacefully criticize the government or defend the rights of citizens; lawyers who dare to represent “sensitive cases” without cooperating with the government; and activists who assemble in a peaceful manner, attempt to request the government’s permission to establish a nongovernmental organization (NGO), or peacefully protest against government policies or judicial injustices are subsequently “invited to drink tea,” summoned for interrogation, detained or arrested, and eventually tried in a corrupt judicial system. To be sure, the Chinese government has intensified its harassment of NGOs, civil society organizations, law firms representing human rights cases, charitable organizations, and political organizations such as the “New Citizen Movement.”

During the Xi Administration, and particularly in the past 18 months, religious freedom abuses have reached a level not seen since the Cultural Revolution. Not only have house churches continued to experience intensifying persecution, but now “Three-Self” churches, that is, government-sanctioned churches are being subjected to government-sponsored persecution campaigns. The Chinese government’s persecution of Tibetan Buddhists, Uyghur Muslims, and Falun Gong practitioners has also worsened. The Chinese government perceives religious practitioners as being guided by “foreign influence” and has subsequently pursued absolute control over religious communities.

Finally, China’s newly passed national security law will expand the management, oversight, and suppression of religious activity under the guise of national security. Specifically, Article 27 states that “The State lawfully protects citizens' freedom of religious belief and normal religious activities, upholds the principle of religions managing themselves, preventing, stopping and lawfully punishing the exploitation of religion's name to conduct illegal and criminal activities that endanger national security, and opposes foreign influences interference with domestic religious affairs, maintaining normal order of religious activities. The State shuts down cult organizations in accordance with law, preventing, stopping, lawfully punishing and correcting illegal and criminal cult activities.” The last clause regarding so called “cults” is especially concerning noting the Chinese government’s use of this term to persecute both Falun Gong practitioners and most recently house churches. To be sure, the new national security law is expected to embolden the Chinese government to intensify its harassment of religious practitioners and organizations in order to control all aspects of religious life.

I will testify on religious freedom, human rights and rule of law in China and focus specifically on the forced demolitions of churches and crosses in Zhejiang province, the ongoing persecution of the house church, and the treatment of human rights defenders and the rule of law in China.

I will then offer related observations and recommendations for U.S. foreign policy on China.

I. Forced Demolitions

In the past year, the government of Zhejiang province has demolished churches and crosses under the pretext of implementing standards for buildings. Based on China Aid’s research during 2014 and the first six months of 2015, the Chinese government’s suppression of house churches and “Three-Self,” that is, government sanctioned churches have escalated significantly compared to previous years. In 2014, the comprehensive intensity of the government’s persecution of Christian churches and Christians overall in China increased dramatically. In comparing the total number of religious persecution cases, the number of religious practitioners persecuted, the number of citizens detained and sentenced, the number of severe rights abuse cases, and the number of individuals in severe abuse cases with China Aid statistics from 2013, the totals of these six categories increased by 152.74 percent. In comparison with China Aid statistics from previous annual reports, there is a trend of increased persecution over the past eight years, which averages an annual increase of 166.47 percent.

In 2014, the Communist Party Committee and the government of Zhejiang province destroyed churches and crosses under the guise of a campaign entitled “three rectifications and one demolition,” which attempted to regulate so-called “illegally constructed buildings.” By the end of 2014, more than 30 churches were forcibly demolished throughout the province, over 300 individuals were interrogated by police, more than 150 religious practitioners were physically injured, more than 60 individuals were administratively or criminally detained, and more than 10 pastors and church leaders were arrested. According to information collected by China Aid, by the end of June of this year, more than 1,500 churches had their crosses forcibly demolished or removed in Zhejiang province, at least 50 of which were house churches in rural areas, with more than 1,300 Christians having been interrogated, arrested, or held in custody for protesting or attempting to prevent the destruction of their churches or crosses.

Just in the past month, both Protestant and Catholic government sanctioned churches in the cities of Hangzhou and Jinhua had their crosses forcibly demolished or removed. A few members of these churches peacefully protested and in some cases hired lawyers to defend their rights. In addition, both the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association and China Christian Council representing Zhejiang province sent letters to the provincial and central government authorities demanding they cease from forcibly demolishing their church’s crosses. The government sponsored campaign to destroy the crosses of predominately government sanctioned churches reflects a new development in religious persecution in China.

II. Persecution Against the House Church

The Chinese government’s persecution campaign against the house church movement continues to escalate as a continuation of the 2011 government mandate to “eradicate house churches within 10 years.” During the past 18 months, the Chinese government has orchestrated a systematic campaign to persecute house churches in China. The larger urban house churches such as the Shouwang Church in Beijing and Wanbang Church in Shanghai continue to remain prohibited by the Chinese government, while house churches such as Chengdu’s Xiuyuzhifu Church, Guangzhou’s Liangren Church, and Guiyang’s Huoshi Church are subjected to strict control and harassment by public security and religious affairs bureaus. House churches in rural areas also continue to experience increased levels of persecution.

Unlike previous years, the Chinse government began to persecute house churches under the guise of “eradicating cults” in 2014. The Chinese government consistently cites “attacking cults” as a pretext to launch large-scale persecution campaigns against house churches. Details of religious freedom cases reveals that the CPC regularly cited Clause 300 of the Criminal Law, defined as “organizing cults and sects and using superstition to undermine law enforcement,” in an attempt to harass and persecute house church pastors, elders, and church members.

The Chinese government’s persecution of house churches under the pretext of “eradicating cults” and through other means is detailed in China Aid’s 2014 Annual Report on Religious and Human Rights Persecution in China. Unfortunately, the persecution of the house church continues to worsen in 2015, here is a sampling of the reports we have received this year:

• January 20, 2015: Over 20 church members from Sichuan’s Langzhong Church were taken into police custody, and nine were administratively detained for 10-15 days.

• March 20, 2015: 10 Christians in Jiangsu province were detained for attending a worship service.

• March 23, 2015: Yongxing Christian Church in Anhui province was forcibly demolished.

• April 14, 2015: A church in Anhui province was forcibly demolished.

• April 16, 2015: Approximately 10 Christians in two regions of Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region were taken into police custody.

• April 24, 2015: Two religious practitioners in Xinjiang were administratively detained for gathering in a house to worship.

• April 24, 2015: Three Christians were sentenced to two years in prison and a contractor was sentenced to one year and nine months in prison for “illegal business operations” for printing character improvement textbooks that included references to Christian values.

• April 26, 2015: Five members of the Discipleship Church in Shandong province were sentenced to three to four years in prison.

• April 30, 2015: Bethany Church Jilin province was forcibly closed.

• May 10, 2015: Over 30 Christians in Xinjiang were detained by police and their church was forcibly closed.

• May 20, 2015: Three house churches in Guangdong province were forcibly closed.

• May 26, 2015: Twelve members of Qianxi Church in Guizhou province were administratively detained, and seven were later placed under criminal detention.

• May 28, 2015: In Liaoning province, the wife of Pastor Wang Zhongliang was bound and gagged by public security officers for several hours prior to the interrogation of her husband.

• June 1, 2015: Pu’er Church in Yunnan province was raided by the government.

• June 13, 2015: Beijing’s Yahebo Church was raided.

• June 16, 2015: Members of Sichuan’s Langzhong Church were detained for 10 days, and members of Shuiguanzhen Church were detained for 15 days.

• June 29, 2015: 8 members of the Daguan Church in Guizhou province were criminally detained.

In reviewing religious freedom abuses perpetrated against the house church during both 2014 and 2015, the following characteristics emerged: the abuse of administrative penalties and regulations regarding the length of administrative or criminal detention of church members and leaders; persecuting churches and church members under the guise of “eradicating cults;” confiscating house church possessions, religious materials, and books; banning and harassing Sunday schools and their use of religious publications; forcibly collecting and documenting information about house churches and church members; forcing house church members to join the government sanctioned Three-Self church; detaining and sending house church leaders to labor camps on the pretext of “suspicion of organizing and using a cult to undermine law enforcement;” and restricting religious teaching to minors and college students.

III. Human Rights Defenders and the Rule of Law

Ironically, Xi Jinping shouted the slogan “govern the country according to law” when he took office, but the rule of law in China has perhaps regressed to a time of reminiscent of the Cultural Revolution. In the less than three years of Xi’s presidency, human rights conditions and the rule of law in China has deteriorated significantly. The Chinese government has increased its interrogation, detention, and arrest of dissidents, human rights advocates, NGO leaders, feminist activists, human rights lawyers, and other civil society actors. The Chinese government also continues to abuse Article 73 of China’s criminal procedural law, known as “residential surveillance,” which allows for the arbitrary detention of Chinese citizens, which has been used against human rights lawyers, dissidents, religious practitioners, and journalists.

The Xi Administration continues to harass, intimidate, and arrest NGO and think tank leaders, such as Dr. Xu Zhiyong of the New Citizen Movement, whose campaigns to promote equal access to education and the public disclosure of government official’s financial records have been banned by the Chinese government. The leaders of the Beijing-based non-governmental think tank “Transition Institution,” namely Guo Yushan and He Zhengjun have been arrested on the charge of “illegal business operations” and are awaiting trial.

The Chinese government continues to arrest influential public intellectuals and journalists who dare to criticize the government and disseminate information on constitutionalism, including the veteran journalist Gao Yu, 71, who was unjustly sentenced to seven years in prison for the crime of "illegally providing state secrets to (institutions) outside (China's) borders.”

To be sure, human rights lawyers in China are among the bravest Chinese citizens seeking justice and promoting the rule of law in China. Unfortunately, the reward for courageously defending Falun Gong practitioners, political dissidents, and human rights advocates is to be labeled a “trouble maker” by the government and subsequently subjected to harassment from local government public security agencies and government officials in the judicial system.

The Chinese government has intensified it persecution of human rights lawyers, including the arrest and detention of prominent lawyer Pu Zhiqiang, who has been in detention for over one year and still awaits trial. Pu represented numerous Chinese citizens whose basic rights had been violated by the government, and expressed his views on public issues via the Internet, including criticizing the government’s policies on the treatment of ethnic minorities.

Sadly, the internationally recognized human rights lawyer Gao Zhisheng is still being denied freedom of movement and access to medical treatment since being released from prison in August of 2014 after serving a 5-year prison sentence.

In March of 2014, human rights lawyers Tang Jitian, Jiang Tianyong, Wang Cheng and Zhang Junjie, and nine family members of their clients, visited the “Jiansanjiang Rule of Law Education Center” in China’s northeastern Heilongjiang province and demanded the release of illegally detained citizens. These lawyers and family members were all arrested by the local public security agent and subsequently placed under administrative detention for “utilizing cult activities to harm society.” The four detained human rights lawyers were beaten and tortured resulting in collectively having 24 of their ribs broken. The “Jiansanjiang” incident became well known throughout China among both human rights lawyers and citizens alike causing many to travel to Jiansanjiang to show their support. In the end, the local public security bureau kidnapped and beat more than 100 individuals that were peacefully protesting.

Unfortunately, there are a hundreds of these incidents in which human rights lawyers are harassed or worse, beaten. Here is a sampling of the reports we have received this year:

• In February, during a trial in the city of Liuzhou attorneys Wen Yu and Sui Muqing were expelled from the court by the presiding judge and physically injured by judicial police.

• In April, Beijing-based attorneys Wang Fu, Liu Jinping and Zhang Lei were surrounded and assaulted at the gate of Hengyang Intermediate Court by judicial police.

• In June, attorney Zhang Kai, Li Guisheng and six other human rights lawyers traveled to Guizhou province to represent a human rights case and were beaten by local police.

• On July 10th, the Chinese government began interrogating and detaining human rights lawyers and advocates, and legal professionals, which continues today. As of July 21st 242 human rights lawyers and advocates, and legal professionals have either been interrogated, detained, or have gone missing into police custody, of which 11 human rights lawyers and 3 human rights advocates have been criminally detained, and 6 remain missing.

There are many who fear that the July 10th crackdown on human rights defenders may be under the pretext of China’s new national security law, including the State department, which made the the following statement last week: “Over the last few days we have noted with growing alarm reports that Chinese public security forces have systematically detained individuals who share the common attribute of peacefully defending the rights of others, including those who lawfully challenge official policies. We are deeply concerned that the broad scope of the new National Security Law is being used as a legal facade to commit human rights abuses. We strongly urge China to respect the rights of all of its citizens and to release all those who have recently been detained for seeking to protect the rights of Chinese citizens.”

In April of this year, the 14th Plenary of the 12th National People’s Congress Standing Committee reviewed the Foreign NGO Management Law, which many fear will further suppress civil society. The eventual enactment of this law and the national security law recently passed on July 1st indicate that the Chinese government aims to comprehensively exercise unconstrained control over its citizens, including limiting access to information, and controlling every aspect of civil and political life, which is a dangerous and alarming trend that should be viewed as both a United States foreign policy and national security priority.

In gauging U.S. foreign policy towards China, I’d like to make the following observations:

The U.S. government must carefully evaluate the effectiveness of its foreign policy with China over the past few years. The United States has numerous exchanges and partnerships with the Chinese government on economic, military, and political issues, but has yet to produce any positive outcome in advancing human rights, religious freedom or rule of law in China. In fact, the over the last decade, the United States has done little more that expressed its concern over China’s deteriorating human rights record. Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo still remains in prison, and prominent political prisoners of conscience Wang Bingzhang and Peng Ming who peacefully advocated for China’s democratization are still serving life sentences.

In the past decade, the Chinese government has both openly and secretly executed more than one thousand prisoners of conscience. The Chinese government’s persecution of Falun Gong practitioners, Tibetan Buddhists, Uyghur Muslims, and Christians both within house churches and government sanctioned TSPM churches has reached an unprecedented level. To be sure, religious freedom and related human rights remain an empty promise for Chinese citizens, and President Xi’s suppression of freedom of speech on university campuses, and arrest and detention of dissidents, human rights lawyers, and civil society actors appears to be becoming the norm in China. Yet, every year, Congressional leaders and human rights organizations make strong appeals to the Obama administration, hoping that the U.S. government will take stronger and more effective measures to pressure the Chinese government to adhere to basic human rights as defined by international law. To be sure, the current approach of our U.S. foreign policy with the Chinese government has not worked, and there are consequences to this failed foreign policy, namely the lives of those Chinese citizens working at their peril to advocate for the basic freedoms we too often take for granted here in the United States.

Thus U.S. government must have a new policy with China that clearly defines human rights as a priority in ongoing and future dialogues and identifies opportunities to pressure the Chinese government to respect their citizen’s access to basic human dignity, freedom, and civil and political rights. U.S. foreign policy must link the improvement of human rights and rule of law in China with ongoing and future cooperation in the economic, political, and military sectors.

Therefore, I would offer the following recommendations for U.S. foreign policy on China:

• Noting that the annual U.S.- China Human Rights Dialogue has yet to make any significant gains, many within the human rights community, including myself, believe the dialogue should be cancelled indefinitely. However, if the dialogue should continue, there should be strict preconditions, such as clearly defined and measureable outcomes and the inclusion of human rights advocates and Chinese civil society representatives.

• Human rights should play a more central role during annual U.S.- China Strategic and Economic Dialogues (S&ED) and include a review mechanism to ensure progress on human rights is made during each year’s meeting. This year’s discussions of human rights at the S&ED was extremely disappointing, which included no reference of specific human rights cases, such as those prisoners of conscience listed among the China 18, or others.

• The U.S. Congress must periodically evaluate the efficacy of U.S. foreign policy towards China regarding human rights and when necessary enact legislation that addresses the unique challenges of confronting China on its human rights record. The United States’ foreign policy must send a strong and consistent message to the Chinese government that it must reverse its trajectory of denying basic human rights to its citizens or face specific consequences.

• The U.S. State Department should strongly consider posting an officer at the U.S. Embassy in China with the sole responsibility of monitoring and reporting on religious freedom and related human rights abuses within China, including in the areas of Tibet and Xinjiang.

• The State Department’s office of the International Religious Freedom and the U.S. Commission International Religious Freedom should attempt to visit China each year to conduct field work and communicate with Chinese religious communities directly.

• The U.S. State Department should make an official public statement condemning the forced demolition of churches and crosses in Zhejiang province and throughout China.

• The U.S. State Department should raise publicly and at all levels of exchanges with the Chinese government the cases of prisoners of conscience included in the China 18 and others.

• The U.S. government must reconsider its invitation to President Xi to visit the United States in September, which should either be cancelled, postponed or preconditioned on the following: the release of prisoners of conscience listed among the China 18 and others such as Gao Yu, Pu Zhiqiang, Guo Yushan, and Ilham Tohti; 2) the release of human rights lawyer Gao Zhisheng from house arrest; 3) ending the harassment and detention of human rights lawyers, including releasing currently detained lawyers and legal professionals; and 4) ending the forcible demolition of churches and crosses in Zhejiang province and throughout China.


1. China Aid’s 2014 Annual Report on Religious and Human Rights Persecution in China
2. China 18 Prisoners of Conscience:

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Pastor Huang Yizi
(Photo courtesy of Zhang Kai)
China Aid
By Rachel Ritchie

(Wenzhou, Zhejiang—July, 23 2015) Friends and family members of a detained pastor in China’s coastal Zhejiang province visited him in prison last month as his August release date approaches.

Pastor Huang Yizi, of Pingyang County, Wenzhou’s Fengwo Church, was detained on Aug. 3, 2014, following his protest of the forced removal of Pingyang County’s Salvation Church’s cross on July 21, 2014, for “gathering a crowd to disrupt public order.” He was sentenced to one year in prison on March 24, 2015.

Huang’s family members and members of his church and other Pingyang County churches came to the detention center on June 25 to visit him before his release on Aug. 2, 2015. Thirteen were allowed to visit the pastor.

“He is good, writing a lot of poems,” one church member said. “He also has to work. The only trouble is having changed cells many times recently.”

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Cell: (432) 553-1080 | Office: 1+ (888) 889-7757 | Other: (432) 689-6985
Hong Kong | By James Pomfret

A closely-watched trial of three Chinese rights activists resumed on Thursday in the southern city of Guangzhou as authorities pursued an unprecedented crackdown on human rights lawyers across China.

The area around Guangzhou's intermediate People's Court was blocked off with metal barricades and scores of police were deployed. Foreign journalists and a small group of Western diplomats were barred from the courtroom.

At least a dozen supporters of the defendants -- Tang Jingling, Wang Qingying and YuanChaoyang, who goes by the pen name Yuan Xinting -- were taken away by police according to witnesses and diplomats on the scene.

Police held up rows of black umbrellas to obscure views of these activists being removed.

Some 249 people including rights lawyers have been detained or questioned since the crackdown began in July, according to the Hong Kong-based China Human Rights Concern Group.

Tang, 44, a prominent human rights lawyer, was arrested a ago and now faces a charge of "inciting subversion of state power", which carries a maximum sentence of 15 years.

Wang Yanfang, wife of Chinese human rights lawyer Thang
Jingling, holds his portrait during a protest calling for the
release of Tang and other political prisoners, outside the
Chinese liaison office in Hong Kong July 6, 2014.
Reuters/Tyrone Siu
The men distributed books such as Gene Sharp's "From Dictatorship to Democracy" and "Self-Liberation", police said. They also accused Tang of inciting others to participate in the non-violent "Citizen Non-Cooperation Movement".

Yan Xin, a defense lawyer for the activists, said they had pleaded not guilty. "He (Tang) didn't answer much in court," said Yan. "He felt the prosecution didn't have the right to ask questions and accuse him of any subversive tendencies given his peaceful work."

The trio were known as the "three gentlemen of Guangzhou", part of a once vibrant community of activists in the southern Chinese city that has been targeted by authorities in recent years. Another Guangzhou rights leader, Guo Feixiong, has been detained for over a year and faces prosecution for his work.

The U.S. government said in a statement that it was "deeply concerned" at what appeared to be a systematic pattern of arrests and detentions of rights defenders who "peacefully challenge official Chinese policies and actions".

In Hong Kong, several dozen activists including lawyers and several legislators held a street protest calling for an end to the clampdown on civil society in China. They held up yellow umbrellas and photographs of Tang and other rights defenders.

Last month, legal proceedings were suspended when the three dismissed their lawyers after the court rejected requests to call witnesses and keep Communist Party members off the bench.

One of the lawyers for the activists, Sui Muqing, has since been detained in the ongoing crackdown. The trial will continue through Friday.

(Reporting by James Pomfret; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

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Cell: (432) 553-1080 | Office: 1+ (888) 889-7757 | Other: (432) 689-6985
Washington's Top News
By The Associated Press
July 23, 2015 6:13 pm

WASHINGTON (AP) — Heightened religious persecution in China is casting a cloud over Chinese President Xi Jinping’s (shee jihn-peengz) scheduled U.S. visit in September.

A congressional panel heard testimony Thursday about the crackdown on Chinese believers and the lawyers who defend them.

The Rev. Bob Fu, president of U.S.-based China Aid, said crosses have been demolished from more than 1500 Chinese churches, with pastors and believers being beaten and their lawyers imprisoned.

Miss World Canada Anastasia Lin, who was born in China, testified that tens of thousands of Falun Gong practitioners have been killed so that Chinese officials could harvest their organs and sell them for transplants.

New Jersey Congressman Chris Smith said that with Tibetan Buddhists and Chinese Muslims also facing persecution, the issue of religious persecution must be addressed during Xi Jinping’s upcoming U.S. visit. But he added, “We must ask whether this summit should even take place.”

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The New York Times
By Andrew Jacobs and Chris Buckley
July 22, 2015

BEIJING — More than 200 lawyers and associates have been detained, with 20 still in custody. Some have been paraded on television making humiliating confessions or portrayed as rabble-rousing thugs. A blast of commentaries in newspapers run by the Communist Party has accused them of subversion and swindles.

Yu Wensheng, 48, said his recent arrest nudged him into the
ranks of human rights defenders.
Adam Dean for The New York Times
In what lawyers call the most withering political assault on their profession in decades, the Chinese government is mounting a broad crackdown on human rights lawyers, contending that they have exploited contentious cases to enrich themselves and attack the party.

The beleaguered lawyers say the government’s real goal is to discredit and dismantle the “rights defense” movement, a small but audacious group of people who have used the law and public pressure to defend clients in a system stacked against them.

Yet, in a telling sign of how much Chinese society has changed in the four decades since Mao’s death, the lawyers are not retreating. Despite the intense police pressure, and the previous imprisonment of lawyers under President Xi Jinping, dozens have organized petitions denouncing the detentions and volunteered to defend those held by the police.

“I used to think being a lawyer was just a tool to make money,” said Yu Wensheng, 48, a commercial lawyer whose recent arrest nudged him into the ranks of human rights defenders. “But now I believe we have a greater mission to change a broken system. The crackdown is fierce, but we rights defense lawyers will fight back.”

To Mr. Yu and others, the future of the rule of law in China is at stake.

In the decades since China’s courts emerged from the ashes of Mao’s war on legal institutions, lawyers have promoted the country’s fitful embrace of Western-style jurisprudence. Their efforts have helped Chinese citizens win some protections from the diktats of a nearly omnipotent party-state, giving political dissidents, outspoken Christians and victims of illegal land grabs a rare outlet to fight back.

A dozen years ago, the Chinese news media even lionized rights lawyers who persuaded the legislature to scrap a draconian system of residency permits.

But in the latest campaign, beginning about two weeks ago, news reports have depicted rights lawyers as venal con artists, sexual predators and foul-mouthed hooligans, a level of invective that suggests the Communist Party’s determination to not only muzzle the movement but also delegitimize it.

“This is a concerted effort to discredit the entire cadre of rights defense lawyers,” said Carl Minzner, an expert on Chinese law at Fordham University. He said it was a “clear signal” that their use of high-profile cases and news media pressure to call attention to social problems would “no longer be tolerated.”

The government has focused its ire on the Fengrui Law Firm in Beijing, which has represented the dissident artist Ai Weiwei; Ilham Tohti, the Uighur academic sentenced to life in prison last year on charges of separatism; and Cao Shunli, a human rights campaigner who died after reportedly being denied medical care while in police custody.Photo
Pu Zhiqiang, a Chinese civil rights defense lawyer, in 2010. He
has been held by the police for more than a year without trail.
Ng Han Guan/Associated Press
The authorities have detained the director of Fengrui, Zhou Shifeng, at least four other lawyers in the firm and an administrative assistant. The 16-year-old son of a lawyer was seized and held for two days just before he was to fly to Australia to attend high school, and the lawyer’s husband was detained.

The police have accused Mr. Zhou and his colleagues of engineering courthouse protests and online uproars to discredit the government, intimidate judges and promote themselves. In a confession on national television last week, one of Mr. Zhou’s colleagues, Huang Liqun, accused him of embezzlement and described him as a womanizer who had repeatedly forced himself on female employees. Mr. Zhou was also shown admitting guilt.

Attacks in the state news media have been relentless. “There are always some ‘black hands’ adding fuel to the fire behind some sensitive incidents that attract attention,” said one commentary in a Communist Party paper last week. “But in these cases of so-called rights defense, a small number of lawyers have played an inglorious role as accessories to wrecking the rule of law and disturbing social order.”

More than 120 of those detained in the past two weeks were lawyers. The rest were members of support staff at law firms, family members of lawyers or unattached rights activists, according to a list compiled by Amnesty International. The government and the state news media have been mute about this broader sweep, but have lauded the charges against the Fengrui lawyers as an advance for clean justice and denounced critics of the detentions.

“Some Western media and political figures don’t respect China’s legal system and rules,” a commentary by Xinhua, the state news agency, said on Wednesday. The detentions were no different from cases in the United States involving legal representatives who broke the law, it said. “These lawyers sabotaged China’s legal order and so should face legal punishment.”

Since Mr. Xi came to power in November 2012, the authorities have imprisoned dozens of supporters of the rights defense movement. Another prominent lawyer, Pu Zhiqiang, has been detained since May 2014 and is likely to soon face trial and almost certain conviction, joining other prominent activist lawyers in prison. Other lawyers who challenge the government in politically contentious cases have experienced harassment, detention and loss of their licenses.

Yet the ranks of lawyers willing to take on politically sensitive cases has only grown in recent years. They are a sliver of China’s 270,000 lawyers, but one with an outsize influence on public life.
The Beijing offices of the Fengrui Law Firm, right. The
authorities have detained the firm's director, at least four other
lawyers and an administrative assistant.
Mark Schiefelbein/Associated Press

Eva Pils, a scholar at Kings College London who studies legal activists in China, said there were as many as 300 rights defenders in China, up from a few dozen a decade ago. “Other lawyers have come to see that their own professional interests are aligned with those of the human rights lawyers,” she said.Photo
Mr. Yu, the commercial lawyer who has embraced a perilous career as a rights activist, said his conversion began in October, when jail officials illegally barred him from seeing a client, a man being held on charges that he had supported the pro-democracy demonstrations in Hong Kong.

Many US jobs have been lost due to cheap Chinese labor that seems to have only benefited the rich and the government of China. The influx of...
Walter Pewen 3 hours ago

Really, if these attorneys were working for the business of enhancing wealth for Chinese business on any level, they would have no problem. ...
JAP 4 hours ago

Frustrated, Mr. Yu did something out of character: He staged a protest outside the detention center in a suburb of Beijing, took selfies and then posted them on WeChat, a messaging app.

Two days later, he was arrested. During three months in detention, most of it in a cell filled with death row inmates, he endured 17-hour interrogations and was subjected to physical abuse that left him with an abdominal hernia. He was not allowed to see a lawyer, nor was he formally charged.

Freed on bail but warned by the police against speaking out about his detention, Mr. Yu said he would not be swayed. “I know they can come take me away at any moment,” he said. “I used to be afraid, but not anymore.”

The detentions have prompted criticism from some figures in the legal establishment, who have warned that China risks reversing its halting progress toward rule of law.

“If the public powers arrest lawyers at will, that’s no sign that the country’s lawyers are in a good state,” Jiang Ping, the former president of the China University of Political Science and Law in Beijing, said in a speech published last week. “Rather, that’s a step backwards in the responsibility to protect lawyers.”

Instead, as conditions have deteriorated, more lawyers like Chi Susheng, 59, from northeast China, have become disenchanted.

For 15 years, until 2013, she was a delegate to the National People’s Congress, a prestigious and potentially lucrative position. But she became increasingly frustrated with the harassment and restrictions that cramped her work even in cases with no political overtones.

“I’ve always had absolute confidence that a country of rule of law would eventually arrive,” she said in a telephone interview. “But then we found that when we taught ordinary people to follow legal procedures and take action according to the law, people would go to the court but wouldn’t be allowed to lodge a case.”

Many lawyers have scoffed at the government’s allegations against the rights lawyers, especially the claim that they were seeking riches in taking rights cases. Mr. Yu, the lawyer who was held incommunicado for three months, gestured at his threadbare office and said there was little financial reward in representing rights-defense clients, many of them poor.

“If you want to make money,” he said, “I’d suggest you stick to commercial work.”

Andrew Jacobs reported from Beijing, and Chris Buckley from Hong Kong. Vanessa Piao contributed research from Beijing.

China Aid Contacts
Rachel Ritchie, English Media Director
Cell: (432) 553-1080 | Office: 1+ (888) 889-7757 | Other: (432) 689-6985