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(Hong Kong—Dec. 9, 2016) Sitting down for an exclusive interview with a China Aid reporter in Hong Kong on Nov. 2, two Chinese pastors from persecuted house churches described the difficulties they face as they seek to spread Christianity among North Koreans in China and North Korea.

The two Christians, who elected to remain anonymous, shared their testimonies, both attesting to the ways their lives changed once they entered the faith. One admitted to serving as the second-in-command advisor to the local mafia boss and converted a week after someone discussed Christianity with his mother, even though he initially expressed opposition to the religion. At the time of his conversion, he was a few weeks away from robbing a bank transportation van, which he planned for years. However, his desire to lead the same kind of life evaporated, and he canceled the robbery.

Despite his subsequent attempts to lead an upright life, he said: 

“I talked to God, saying, ‘Lord, I can’t imagine why, when I was a bad guy, I was in constant contact with the policemen, and now, even after I became such a good person, I still have to deal with them everyday.’ They will ask me to go to the police station and then question me. The longest I’ve ever been questioned was for more than half a day, and they didn’t give me any food.”

Similarly, the other man said he led an awful life before becoming a Christian but did not disclose any details. Before his conversion, his mother prayed he would enter the faith for seven years.

Afterwards, the men partnered with one another and tuned their focuses on evangelizing one of the world’s most reclusive and religiously oppressive countries—North Korea.

Dictated by the ideology that its leaders are gods, North Korea considers all ideological dissidence subversive to state control and imposes strict crackdowns on those who profess another faith. In moves that echo the Holocaust, entire families of Christians are rounded up and sentenced to years in secretive labor camps, where they are murdered, worked to death, starved, sexually abused, tortured and forced to witness the executions of those who try to escape. North Korea considers its citizens guilty by association and arrests up to three generations of a prisoner’s family.

Currently, the pastors are training a group of Chinese Christians to go to North Korea as missionaries. When asked what fears they have about going into such a hostile nation, one of them said, “We have no fears.” Paraphrasing the rest of his words, the translator continued:

“Actually, he shared something about the cruelty of how people will be mistreated in North Korea if they are found to be Christians, or if they ever say anything about Jesus. If they are North Koreans, their family will probably disappear, and the men will probably be beaten or have their hands chopped off. If they are women, you can imagine; maybe they will be raped by many people at the same time. So, he’s saying that, since you’re speaking of fear, their team is training [missionaries] who are fearless and also don’t have family. Like, they’re single, they’re not married yet, but they’re ready to lay down their lives for Christ at any time if they ever go to [North] Korea and meet any bad situations.”

As they prepare to send these young people over the border, the church has also directed its evangelistic efforts to North Koreans living in China.

Succumbing to various government-imposed pressures, such as a lack of medical or food resources, some North Koreans decide to flee the country. Hemmed in by the South Korean border, which is patrolled by the U.S., South Korean and North Korean militaries and is filled with miles of land mines, most opt to take the dangerous journey across the Tumen River, which severs North Korea from the Chinese mainland. Officially, this trek is illegal, as all non-government approved trips outside of the country are seen as acts of treason. Refugees risk being shot if spotted by border patrol officers, causing many to pay guides who specialize in smuggling people across the border.

However, because of its alliance with North Korea, China refuses to grant North Koreans refugee status. As such, all North Koreans who flee to China enter the country illegally and face forced repatriation if they are discovered. Imprisonment, torture, and sometimes even death await them upon their arrival back to their home country.

Even if they do manage to evade Chinese authorities, their status as undocumented immigrants leaves them vulnerable to abuse and fearful that others will turn them into the government. Taking advantage of this, human traffickers, sometimes doubling as guides, work on both sides of the border to sell North Korean women into prostitution or marriages with Chinese men. Estimates approximate that up to 90 percent of North Korean women who enter China are forcibly married or sold into the sex industry. Non-compliance could prompt their abusers to turn them into the government.

Even as the Chinese police attempt to snuff out North Koreans trapped behind their borders, Christians in China have begun searching them out in order to share the Gospel. In describing their efforts to evangelize North Korean women, whom they claim are more likely to settle in China than the men, the pastors said they help them with their work, provide counseling for them and get to know their husbands, so that the men will trust them to be around their wives.

Due to the language barrier, it is often difficult for the pastors to provide quality Christian teaching for these women. When they arranged for South Korean pastors to come preach to the North Koreans in their church, the government accused them of associating with Christians overseas, which they claim allows foreign ideas to infiltrate China. As a result, they had to stop bringing the pastors in.

An excerpt of the interview has been transcribed below. Sections of the interview which might compromise the safety of the two pastors or those associated with them have been removed.

China Aid reports abuses within China, such as those suffered by North Koreans and the Chinese Christians reaching out to them, and adamantly opposes the repression of religious freedom in China and North Korea in order to stand in solidarity with the persecuted.



Interview

Editor’s note: In order to respect the pastors’ wish to remain anonymous, they will be referred to as “A” and “A2.” Since the translator often paraphrased their thoughts, she will be referred to as “T.” The reporter will be referred to as “R.”

R: How do they become Christians?

T: Before they became Christians, they were losers in society, and God has saved them miraculously. [A] believed in Jesus because his mother prayed for him for seven years. His mother dedicated him to the Lord on the same day that he converted. He believed in Jesus reluctantly.

A lot of miracles happened along the way after he became a Christian, and there were times when God reminded him or gave him verses in his mind. God talked to him, like speaking loudly in his ears, saying that if anyone persecutes you, you should flee from one city to another. So now, no matter who he meets, he will share the Gospel with them. As long as it’s a person, it’s a life.

A: I used to be a bad guy, so I tell [others] that since God can change a bad person like me, he can surely change you.

T: And, before he became a Christian, he got divorced, and his wife left him with a boy, but, as he shared with me yesterday, they kind of separated for 10 years after the marriage, and then they became Christians separately, and then they remarried again.

They found out that they had both become Christians, and they got back together. They both serve the Lord and are working in the ministry field. He used to have heart disease, so he couldn’t do really heavy labor, so every day, he read the Bible and preached and shared the Gospel with people.

A: I feel like I have encountered some hardships, but I believe that there are people who live in worse conditions than me. In my village, there were girls who ran away from North Korea, but they came to China, and they met human traffickers, so they were sold as wives to the local villagers.

T: Normally, the villagers are poor; that’s why they cannot find Chinese wives, so [the women] are living in worse conditions than [the pastors], and that’s why he had this opportunity to approach them and share the Gospel with them.

A: So, after I reach out to them, I share the Gospel with them and tell them that, even though they are hopeless and living in such hard conditions, there is life in Jesus, and He will change their lives. Then, they really change. Because I really want them to know the truth, I’d like to find good preachers to deliver good messages to them; that’s why I contacted some Chinese Koreans, and then, through them, they introduced me to South Korean pastors. Then, because of Chinese restrictions, [the Chinese Koreans] were not allowed to be in contact with foreigners because of our beliefs. So, they were blacklisted by the police, and I gave up contacting the foreigners.

R: So have they faced lots of opposition for trying to evangelize North Korean women? What types of opposition have they faced?

A: Yes, there has been much opposition. Because of the language barrier, we had many difficulties in the beginning, but later on, when the girls started to learn Chinese, it became much easier. In order to win their favor and their trust, we helped them in their work and also provided counseling to them to help them solve their problems in life. That’s how they began to trust us. The North Koreans are hard to change, and they have this dark side of human nature. Even if we clothe them and feed them, after a while, they will still turn against us and do bad things to us. When the North Korean men flee to China, they [sometimes] cannot survive in China, so they might leave China, but the girls will stay. The girls get married to the locals, and then they have children, settle down, pick up the language, and start to get used to life here.

R: So it’s easier for them to settle down.

A: Yeah.

R: That makes sense. Has the government had any opposition to this?

A: Because they came to China illegally, the policemen hunt them. We don’t interfere with the policemen’s hunting, but, when we see [North Koreans] are in trouble, we will help them.

R: So it’s more like quiet helping rather than resisting the police.

A: Yes. We don’t have money to give to them, but, what we can do is just help them with their labor in the field and counsel them.

R: What are some of the problems that North Koreans face coming to China?

T: They are probably poor, so if they cannot survive, then they will leave the place, and he doesn’t know exactly where they are heading to.

R: So they face general survival difficulties. I want to know if there is anything they would like the world to know about Christian persecution in China?

A: Are you talking about persecution in general or when we are helping the North Koreans? Because they are foreigners, we don’t help as Christians. We cannot live like that. If we approach them, it is illegal because they are foreigners, and we are not allowed to be in touch with them.

R: So has the government ever watched them personally for connecting with North Koreans?

T: Now, it’s better, but years ago, it was worse. Because these girls were sold as wives, they are under the close watch of their husbands. Their husbands were scared that they might run away, because many of these cases happened. So, when the pastors approach the girls, they approach their husbands first and help them and show kindness to them so that they can lay down their prejudice against Christians, and then they get the access to talk to their wives.

R: So it’s like they’re gaining trust. Before, the husbands might not trust them, but afterwards, once they trust them, they’re more likely to allow them to talk to their wives.

A: Years ago, when there were dozens of [North Korean women] coming into China, I rented a place to keep them and provide them with boarding and food, but then, when the policemen found out, they tried to arrest these people, and I was also involved. I was taken to the police station and interrogated.

R: What kind of questions did the police ask when he was being interrogated?

A: They asked if I had ever been in touch with any foreigners, but I hadn’t, other than two. Because I’m not so well-educated, and I don’t know any foreign languages, so I cannot really communicate with foreigners, and also I honestly share what the Bible says with people.

A2: So we have changed our traditional method in terms of helping the North Koreans. Before, the North Koreans came to China, but now, we send Chinese people to North Korea through a [Christian] brother who has a registered travel agency. So, as Christians, we can travel to North Korea.

T: Yesterday, they shared that there are two cities in North Korea that have opened up to China now, so they have five or six co-workers there who set up a base to work there. They’re staying there, so they shift all kinds of materials over there and help the North Koreans financially and with their agricultural technology, education, and give them some training, things like that. They also help them with their kindergarten and kids in the mountainous areas who are living in poor conditions, and teach them agricultural knowledge. They can hardly find any news about how people are living in North Korea on TV or on any news media, so what we know comes from the people who come back from North Korea.

R: Have you been to North Korea yourselves?

A2: No, not yet. We have co-workers from our team who work there, and we made a plan to go there ourselves this year, and we are still praying for that. We are asking for the guidance of the Holy Spirit. North Korea is maybe the most difficult country to share the Gospel in. It’s very closed, so maybe because it’s so difficult that many evangelizing ministries in China prefer to go to the minority group areas in China towards the west. More of the minority groups are living on the western side of China, like Yunnan province, Guizhou province or Tibet, but we have two purposes in our vision: one is to share the Gospel to North Korea, and the other one is to take the Gospel to the Middle East.

R: What are some of the fears going into North Korea as missionaries?

A2: We have no fears.

T: Actually, he shared something about the cruelty of how people will be mistreated in North Korea if they are found to be Christians or if they ever say anything about Jesus. If they are North Koreans, their family will probably disappear, and men will probably be beaten or have their hands chopped off. If they are women, you can imagine; they may be raped by many people at the same time. So, he’s saying that, since you’re speaking of fear, their team is training [missionaries] who are fearless and also don’t have family. Like, they’re single, they’re not married yet, but they’re ready to lay down their lives for Christ at any time if they ever go to [North] Korea and meet any bad situations.

R: Praise God for people like that!

T: So actually, they are not really worried about the Chinese government. They are worried about the North Korean government….

A & A2: So there was a Chinese pastor, he was Korean Chinese, and he had been in the ministry of evangelizing North Koreans for 17 years, but this June or July, his body was found in the Tumen River in northeast China. He was probably assassinated by the North Koreans. He was stabbed 17 times.

A: So that’s why we’re now building this fearless team of people who are willing to die if they have to. Because it’s not about ourselves, or about them, but all that matters is God’s kingdom.

Because we love them, and God loves them, and God has mercy upon them, so we are willing to dedicate ourselves to them. We hope that everybody that can contribute their efforts to this ministry. We can be united together and accomplish the purpose together.

A2: We don’t want to be known by people. We just want to make our own efforts for Christ. We’re specially called by God to be in this ministry, which nobody else wants to do.

A2: I will briefly introduce the persecution we suffered from the government. I have believed in Jesus for 16 years, [beginning] in the year 2000. I used to be in the mafia. I was the advisor to a big boss in the mafia. Among the gangsters, and I was the second most powerful man; so, I visited the police station very often. It was like going back to my own home. In the year 1999, I was planning to rob a van that transported money from the bank. Back then, I did every bad thing that you can imagine except murder. I planned to rob the money transporting van for about a year. In the beginning of the year 2000, someone shared the Gospel with my mom. At that time, I was really against it, but the person who shared the Gospel with me was an elderly colleague of mine. And then, I was really against what he shared but, after one week, I don’t know what happened. I told him that I had changed my mind, and that I’m willing to believe in Jesus. Now, I know that it was the Holy Spirit speaking to me. After I converted, everything changed in my life. Automatically, I dropped the plan to rob the van. Since then, I have been serving in the church. Originally, I went to the Three-Self government church. In the year 2001, I left the Three-Self Church, and I started to provide my services in the house church. I assume that you know the situation of the government church. I won’t repeat it [Editor’s note: China’s government churches are the only legal churches, but they are controlled by the state. As a result, many Chinese Christians have theological disagreements with the official Three-Self Churches and choose to attend house churches instead]. Over the past decade, I was persecuted or interrogated by people from different government authorities, such as the policemen, the public security bureau, the religious affairs bureau, or departments like that. I talked to God, saying, ‘Lord, I can’t imagine why, when I was a bad guy, I was in constant contact with the policemen, and now, even after I have become such a good person, I still have to deal with them every day.’ They will ask me to come to the police station and then question me. The longest time they questioned me was for more than half a day, and they didn’t give me any food. According to Chinese law, they can only detain me for less than 24 hours without any paperwork or anything, but if it is more than 24 hours, they need to get the official paperwork.

R: To get a charge or something?

T: Yes. He’s working for the government. The bureau he’s working for is called the City Management Bureau. It’s like, if there is a vendor on the street, they will kick them out of the street in order to keep order and cleanliness of the place, but actually, they have a really bad reputation among Chinese people, because it is not convenient [for the citizens], and mostly, when they enforce the law, they do it in a very bad and mean manner. They argue and fight with people. That’s just background information.

R: Okay. So they’re not popular?

T: No, it’s like when there is an earthquake or disaster, and the people will joke online, “We should send people from their bureau to help them!”

[Editor’s note: A begins talking]

T: Now, they are in competition about how bad they were.

R: Before they became Christians or now?

T: Before. [A] said that [A2] was really bad, but he was also bad because he had some disagreement with his pastor, and he actually prepared a bag of bombs, and he wanted to throw the bombs into the church and kill the pastor.

You know, in the Chinese government, if you want to get promoted in the system if you work in different bureaus and departments, it actually depends on how long you’ve stayed at the place. [A2] has been there for more than 10 years, but he’s still just a common civil servant. He has not been promoted because of his belief in Jesus. It is not allowed if you are a Christian. You cannot be promoted.

R: Does he get a lot of people disapproving within his department?

T: No, it’s just politically not possible, but his diligence has been recognized by this co-workers and his leaders. They have nothing to criticize him about his work.

R: So they don’t necessarily agree, there’s just no way based on policy.

T: And [A] shared that he was with the pastor in the Three-Self Church. The pastor raised a lot of money from the South Koreans, but we don’t know how he spent his money, because this brother knows about his financial situation and everything. [He knows] all his little secrets. So, he was forced to leave that place and started to go to a house church. He left the rich pastor and started the house church on his own, and he suffered financially. But, along the way, he has encountered many miracles. He is also very happy, even though he is living in poverty and in a difficult situation.

A: I can feel that God is with me all the time.

R: With God, there is joy, right?

T: [A2] is under 24-hour surveillance by the policemen and the security department, and his phone calls and electronic devices are all monitored. Their team planned to come here on this trip. Among the 23 co-workers on their team who planned to come to this event, 17 of them were from [redacted] province, and 15 of them were detained and couldn’t make it. Then, the other several from [A’s] place … five of them were also detained.*

R: So, 20 in total.

A2: The policemen joined with the people from the religious affairs bureau and also the security department. They went to these people’s houses and kept their passports and IDs without any reason.

R: This is this week, when they were coming here?

T: Yes. [A2] is a very smart person. He told us how he got around the policemen and came here. He went to Shenzhen. He bought a train ticket from his place to Shenzhen. Now, if we purchase a train ticket, we need to use our ID and all information is in the computer system, so he suspected that he would probably be tracked by the policemen once he got on the train. They would know, so he got off the train one stop in advance. So he came to Shenzhen by bus, and then he got the last bus and got through customs and stayed at customs overnight. Then, the next morning, he got the first bus and came to this hotel. You know the martial arts of Sun Tzu?

R: The Art of War, the book?

T: The book. It’s a very famous book, with 36 different strategies [of war]. He said that he used two of the strategies in the book.

R: Which strategies did he use?

T: One is “Shan dong ji xi.” It means, “I gave the signal that I am heading towards the east, but actually, I am going west.” And then, the other one is called, “When you are preparing a pot, you have to make a fire underneath it. But then, I take the wood out of the oven” [Editor’s note: These quotes are paraphrases of quotes from The Art of War by Sun Tzu]. So it’s like, when applied to his trip this time, it’s like he gave the signal that he’s heading to Shenzhen, but actually he went to Guangzhou. Then, it’s like, when everything is ready, when the policemen might think that they have prepared the net and the time is right and they can actually capture him in the net, he actually gets in the middle. So it is ready to cook, but you have no wood. So it’s like the special agent stories produced by Hollywood.

R: The next spy movie will be about [A2]!

A2: [Like] 007.

R: 007. He’s James Bond, right?

T: So just like I told you, when [A2 and his friends] got through the customs, there was just one hotel nearby, and it was full, so they had to spend the night on the long benches in the small park nearby. There were three of them.

R: So he was with [A] as well, right?

T: No, they came separately.

A: There were four co-workers from Heilongjiang province, and they separated into two teams. The reason they separated is that they don’t want to risk putting everyone together. If one team gets caught, then the other team can get away.

R: That’s smart.

T: So you know, at customs, they work 24 hours. So they planned to arrive at customs, and they got through customs at around six o’clock at dawn. [They knew] the officers were all tired, so [they thought] maybe they could get through there. Both of their teams, they met in this specific customs location called “shang xue.”

R: Oh okay. Very clever. I know [A2] mentioned that they’re tracking his cell phone and his calls. When did that start?

T: More than 10 years ago. He’s been changing his SIM card constantly. They have their special code for talking about the Bible or the ministry. It’s like “I’m doing business,” or “selling rice;” things like that. If they have a special ministry event to do, they will say, “We will deliver the oil to you.” Then, if they’re going to give a speech or preach, then they will say, “We will deliver rice to you,” because it’s like a battlefield, and we are in the front lines. We are fighting against the devil.

[Editor’s note: A starts talking]

T: You know the story in the Old Testament when the prophet ran away and hid himself and the raven came down and brought bread to him? He said that we are also looking for ravens to bring us bread.

A2: That was the prophet Elijah, so we encourage the co-workers on our team to have the mindset of Elijah.

A: There are many people who know about our team now. They call us “The fearless team who hangs their heads with their belts.”

T: It means they don’t care about their lives.

A: We think that ultimately, it is God Who will be responsible for our lives.

R: I agree!

A2: God’s grace is sufficient.

A: We don’t know the future yet, and [we] have financial needs also. So we pray constantly, 24 hours a day, in our mind and our hearts. We pray all the time. We don’t stop praying. We have many dreams in our hearts, and we have burdens for the churches suffering from poverty. Also, we have burdens for the ministers and the co-workers both in the government church and in the house church. It doesn’t matter what identity they are, but, as long as they love the Lord, we keep them in our prayers. So, whoever is carrying the same ministry with us and shares the same burden—it doesn’t matter if they’re just fearless warriors in prayer or they’re working in the field—they’re in our minds. We keep them in our prayers also.

A2: Our network has covered 30 provinces in China. So, for the people who are fighting on the front lines, they have very difficult situations. For instance, on one hand, they don’t have steady financial aid, and then, they will have to face the resistance or persecution from the government. So I always tell my co-workers, if we are lacking in anything or we are in need, we just need to kneel down and pray to God. Even if the world doesn’t treat us well or someone who doesn’t understand us doesn’t treat us well, God will be just, and God will justify everything to us.

A: We’re planning to hold an annual meeting for this coming year. If you two are interested, you are welcome to visit. Now, we’re planning the planning meeting, including co-workers from Yunnan, Xinjiang, and Tibet. They will come. [People] in Hainan province in Yanbian area [will also come]. There will be people from [different minority groups] joining us.

A2: So, you’re welcome to come and see what we’re doing.

A: And also we’re going to have an ordination ceremony for several of the pastors. Now, the draft of the new Regulations on Religious Affairs is even stricter, so we will suspect that the situation will be more difficult.

R: What are they anticipating?

A: [The government] will restrict in terms of interactions between the co-workers or restrict finances, and also they will track people down. Additionally, the citizens who have no steady income can enjoy a 300 Yuan [$44.00 USD] per month minimum pension from the government, but, if the people say they are Christians with an active faith, they probably will be cut off from the pension.

A2: According to the new regulations, it doesn’t matter if it is a government church or house church. The government can ordain new pastors and get rid of the previous ones. It’s not biblical.

R: No, it’s scary. It’s really scary.

A2: And also the financial department of the church will need to report to the religious affairs bureau.

A: The pastor is not in power of managing the finances any more. The donations or the tithes will be taken away or given to the government.

A2: The house church will need to be registered with the authorities. Otherwise, the landlord will not be allowed to rent out the place for them to meet any more.

A: So, we really need brothers and sisters in the outside world to pray hard for us. I believe that God will open the way for us.

R: That kind of leads into my next question, because, in our organization, we have a lot of prayer warriors and a lot of people who are interested in helping these situations, whether that be through prayer or financially, so could you maybe ask them if there’s anything that I can share with our audience?

T: You want to know their needs, right?

R: Yes, their needs, so I can share it with other people.

T: If there is an opportunity, they would like to visit your church or your organization so that they can share their burdens for the North Koreans and the Middle East with the brothers and sisters there in person.

A2: So first of all, we need your prayers, but secondly, we don’t ask people for financial aid by ourselves, but we do have these needs for the ministry to North Koreans. Also, I believe that since God has put this vision in our hearts, we can trust that He will send the right people to be co-workers with us and also contribute to our ministry. So all these years, we have gone through all the hardships and difficult situations through prayers.

A: I have a different opinion from this brother, because I don’t know that if, when he goes back to his hometown, any bad things will happen to him or [his church’s] finances will be cut. I’d like to say that we should feel unashamed of receiving financial aid or any other aid for our ministries and things including our train tickets, travel expenses, things like that, because we’re not doing things for ourselves. We’re doing them for the Lord. Because he still works for the government, he still has a salary around 2,000 Yuan [$290.00 USD], but I have two kids, and my travel expenses and the cost I paid for this trip was donated by three co-workers back home, so I’d rather say I’m not here for tourism. If I’m doing this for the Lord, I will not feel ashamed for receiving from others. Even though we have different opinions, we understand each other.

A2: Even though we are poor and are short financially, we are not short in our will or in our dignity. Also, God is a God of abundance.

A2: We are already very thankful to you for giving us this opportunity to share the stories of the people fighting on the front lines, and we need you take this information to share with your brothers and sisters back home. We’re already very thankful for that.

*Locational information removed to protect the safety of those involved


ChinaAid Media Team
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2016-12-09

■ China on Friday detained key dissidents, placing some under house arrest amid growing calls for a tougher U.S. stance on Beijing's rights record ahead of World Human Rights Day.

As rights activists and former prisoners of conscience gave testimony to a U.S. congressional hearing on human rights abuses in China, Beijing-based veteran democracy activist Zha Jianguo said he is now at home under tight surveillance.

"They've been standing guard outside my door since early this morning," Zha said. "The police called me and said that tomorrow is World Human Rights Day, and that they'll be doing this for two days."

"They said I mustn't go out," he said. "I said that's not OK, I have things to do, and you're going to deprive me of my basic right to freedom of movement on Human Rights Day?"

He said he went out on Friday anyway. "They just followed me the whole time, until I had done what I needed to do and came home," Zha said.

Jin Bianling (L), wife of disappeared rights lawyer Jiang
Tianyong, and Bob Fu (R), head of the U.S.-based Christian
rights group ChinaAid, seeking U.S. help over Jiang's
whereabouts, in Washington, Dec 7, 2016. Bob Fu
"They're still standing outside the door now."

He said veteran political journalist Gao Yu, who was released from jail on medical parole earlier this year, is in a similar situation.

In Washington, Jin Bianling, wife of disappeared rights lawyer Jiang Tianyong, says she is hoping U.S. politicians will step up the pressure on Beijing over her husband's whereabouts.

"I am hoping that the leaders of the U.S. Congress will get in touch with the Chinese leadership and find out where my husband Jiang Tianyong is," she told RFA before attending a hearing on human rights run by the Congressional-Executive Commission on China in Washington.

Jiang has been incommunicado, believed detained, since last month after visiting the family of detained rights lawyer Xie Dan in Changsha, Hunan province.

"My husband bought a train ticket to go back to Beijing from Changsha on Nov. 21, and he sent out a social media post at around 10.22 p.m," Jin told reporters ahead of the hearing.

"We haven't heard anything from him since."

Hope Trump will be tougher


She called on the Chinese government to release Jiang immediately.

"If he is being held under residential surveillance, we want to know where he is," she said. "We also call on them not to torture him, and to take steps to take care of his health."

Former Beijing University professor Xia Yeliang, who also attended the hearing, said many Chinese dissidents in exile are hoping for a tougher line on human rights under a Trump administration.

"When Donald Trump becomes president of the United States, it's likely that we will see a shift in policy towards China," Xia said.

"People of all ethnic groups have been targeted for persecution by the ruling Chinese Communist Party, and we want Congress ... to understand the serious failings of the current regime," he said.

Veteran democracy activist Wei Jingsheng told the hearing that he fully supports president-elect Donald Trump's idea of a trade war with China, and that such an action should have been started a long time ago.

"Since Chinese law does not guarantee human rights, it is able to keep labor prices at a very low level," Wei told the hearing.

"This has led to the relocation of U.S. companies to foreign countries, while [it] also allows Chinese goods entering the US market with low prices, resulting in unfair competition," he said.

‘Pressure works’

Anhui-based rights activist and former state prosecutor Shen Liangqing said the government routinely clamps down on politically sensitive figures around Human Rights Day, which is also the anniversary of the detention of jailed Nobel peace laureate Liu Xiaobo in 2008.

"Of course it's highly inappropriate that they are violating human rights on Human Rights Day; it makes a mockery of it," Shen said.

"But this is business as usual for the Chinese Communist Party. They have been doing this for years as part of their stability maintenance strategy."

He said Chinese leaders care very little about international public opinion.

"They don't care about all that: they just want to make sure that all remains quiet and that there are no signs of trouble," he said.

But Uyghur dissident-in-exile Rebiya Kadeer said international pressure was the reason for her release from jail in 2005 on medical parole.

"Let us be clear," Kadeer told the hearing. "Pressure works."

She called on Beijing free jailed Uyghur scholar Ilham Tohti, his students and all Uyghur writers and reporters who contributed to his UighurBiz website.

She also called on the Trump administration to "urge China to change its repressive policy, which is the root cause of all bloody incidents in Uyghur region."

Human Rights Day falls on Dec. 10 every year, and was established in 1950 to mark the adoption of the United Nations' Universal Declaration of Human Rights two years earlier.

It is frequently used as a focal point and key anniversary for political and human rights activists in China.

Reported by Yang Fan for RFA's Mandarin Service, and by Ng Yik-tung, Sing Man and Ho Shan for the Cantonese Service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.



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Initiatives for China
Posted on Dec 9, 2016 in Global Magnitsky Act, Highlights, News, Publications

■ Initiatives for China (IFC a.k.a Citizen Power for China) applauds the final passage of the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act by Congress, which will allow the president to deny U.S. visas and freeze U.S.-based assets of any individual human rights abusers and corrupt officials in the world.

IFC believes this paradigm shift will significantly strengthen and enhance the enforcement of international human rights laws, and give a powerful tool for global human rights activists fighting against authoritarian regimes and hold any human rights abusers accountable.

In the celebration of the Global Magnitsky Act’s historic passage, we would like to extend our deep gratitude and appreciation to Senators Ben Cardin (D-MD), John McCain (R-AZ) , Representatives Chris Smith (R-NJ) and Jim McGovern (D-MA) for their leadership and their hard work. We also want to thank Mr. Bill Browder for his dedication and persistence.

The passage of the Global Magnitsky is just the beginning of a long journey to maintain international human rights standards. The implementation of the Act by the Trump Administration is the key to its success. We must ensure that this framework will be used effectively.

We urge President Obama to invite human rights leaders and activists to a signing ceremony for the Global Magnitsky Act in the White House to send a strong signal to the world that a new era of human rights advocacy has arrived.


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The Wall Street Journal
By Samuel Rubenfeld
Dec 8, 2016 2:52 pm ET

■ Legislation applying sanctions on human rights abusers and corrupt officials across the globe was passed by Congress as part of an annual defense-authorization bill, sending it to the White House to be signed into law.

The Capitol Building as seen in Washington on Thursday.
Photo: Associated Press
The sanctions bill, proposed last year by Sen. Ben Cardin (D., Md.), is named for Sergei Magnitsky, a tax lawyer for Hermitage Capital Management who died at the hands of Russian authorities after exposing a tax refund fraud scheme. The Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act was later added to the National Defense Authorization Act, which passed the Senate on Thursday. The House passed its version of the authorization bill last week. The Senate vote sends the authorization bill to the White House.

The original Magnitsky law, which targets Russian human-rights abusers, including those allegedly involved in his death, was signed in 2012. The global Magnitsky provision authorizes visa bans and a block on the U.S. assets of government officials anywhere in the world found violating human rights, committing—or assisting in—“significant” corruption, making graft by a foreign official punishable by U.S. sanctions.

“The U.S. has added a critical tool to our diplomatic toolbox, making clear that gross violators of human rights and those who engage in serious acts of corruption cannot escape the consequences of their actions even when their home country fails to act,” said Mr. Cardin, in a statement.

Write to Samuel Rubenfeld at Samuel.Rubenfeld@wsj.com. Follow him on Twitter at @srubenfeld.


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Bob Fu (center) testifies at a hearing of the Congressional-
Executive Commission on China.
(Photo: Daniel Gong/China Aid)
China Aid

(Washington, D.C.—Dec. 9, 2016) On Wednesday, China Aid founder and president Bob Fu convened with several prominent officials within the U.S. government in Washington, D.C., to advocate for Chinese prisoners of conscience, garnering the support of the State Department, Minority Leader of the United States House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi, Congressman Chris Smith and Senator Marco Rubio.

Yesterday, Fu wrote:

Today is the 17th day since my friend, bold Christian lawyer Jiang Tianyong, went missing and was kidnapped on Nov. 21. We saw God’s presence the whole day yesterday at every stop during our journey in Washington, D.C. Thank you for your prayers.

It was a very productive day. I began the day with a live TV interview at the Voice of America headquarters. Then, I accompanied sister Jin Bianling, the wife of missing Christian human rights lawyer Jiang Tianyong, to meet with State Department officials from several bureaus. I also brought writer Woo Chan Wai, manager of Hong Kong Causeway Bay Bookstore and author of 120 books, who was the only witness when his boss, Lee Bo, was abducted to China by nine Chinese special agents on Dec. 30, 2015, for publishing books critical of President Xi.

The State Department promised to deliver a letter to President Obama.

Jiang has been missing since Nov. 21. He was tortured severely three times previously due to his many legal defense cases.

At noon, we met with Minority Leader for the United States House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi at her office, and she kindly promised to deliver another letter to President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry. Then, I introduced sister Jin to a congressional hearing during my testimony. Two courageous congressional leaders and friends, Congressional-Executive Commission on China Chairman Congressman Smith and Co-Chair Senator Rubio issued a letter to the Chinese ambassador urging the release of three missing and believed arrested rights defenders, including Jiang Tianyong. A copy of the letter was also given to Jin Bianling.
Additionally, China Aid learned that the U.S. Senate passed the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act yesterday, which will enable the U.S. president to enact sanctions against human rights violators. In response, Fu wrote, "This is a significant landmark law and a true mile stone for human rights. Let's hold all abusers of religious freedom and human rights accountable! I am so proud of our coalitions for being part of this effort. China Aid hopes President Obama has the courage to sign this bill into law before he leaves office."

A summary of his speech has been transcribed below.

China Aid advocates on behalf of persecuted Christians and rights activists in China in order to promote religious freedom, human rights and rule of law.



Dissidents Who Have Suffered for Human Rights in China: A Look Back and a Look Forward

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

HVC 210, Capitol Visitor’s Center

Congressional-Executive Commission on China


Religious Freedom and Rule of Law Under Xi Jinping 2016

Bob Fu, China Aid

Dear Chairman Congressman Chris Smith and Co-Chair Senator Marco Rubio,

As China regresses into a more Maoist regime, the Communist Party continues to place restrictive measures on human rights and religious freedom and executes its control over all forms of dissent by arresting or otherwise harassing those who oppose the strictures.

According to current president Xi Jinping, religion must conform to and benefit a socialist society. At a national conference on religion held in April of this year, he urged his administration to ensure that religions “merge religious doctrines with Chinese culture, abide by Chinese laws and regulations, and devote themselves to China's reform and opening up drive and socialist modernization in order to contribute to the realization of the Chinese dream of national rejuvenation,” and argued that the role of the Party was to “guide and educate the religious circle and their followers with the socialist core values….”

His words reinforced a pre-existing nationwide crackdown on religious institutions, including an ongoing cross demolition campaign, arbitrary arrests of pastors and lawyers, and the suppression of Tibetan Buddhists and Uyghur Muslims. Because China Aid receives reports on Christian persecution, this summary will spotlight their cases as examples indicative of a much wider repression of belief.

In its 2015 Annual Report, Chinese Government Persecution of Christians and Churches in China, China Aid noted a 4.74 percent overall increase in persecution, based on how statistics gathered in 2015 compared to those collected the previous year. The various categories accounted for include: number of religious persecution cases (up 10.84 percent), number of persecuted individuals (up 8.62 percent), number of unjustly detained persons (up 6.14 percent), number of abuse cases (up 174.65 percent) and number of abused people (up 91.32 percent).

Persecution campaigns made 2016 one of the most tyrannical years since the Cultural Revolution. As imprisoned human rights lawyers still fight for the right to defend their clients without legal repercussions, officials in Zhejiang province carry out the third consecutive year of a beautification movement that targets church crosses for demolition, Henan province launched a movement focusing on forcing “illegal” Catholic and Protestant churches to conform to socialist ideals, and authorities arrested and detained church members.

Trials for lawyers rounded up in the 709 incident, the nationwide crackdown on human rights defenders named for the day it started, July 9, 2015, commenced on Aug. 2 with the sentencing of Zhai Yanmin, a rights activist who received a three-year suspended prison term for coordinating protests against government rule. A day later, a Tianjin court condemned Beijing church elder Hu Shigen to seven-and-a-half-years’ incarceration and five years’ deprivation of political rights for allegedly “subverting state power” by using Christianity to “spread subversive thoughts and ideas.” The tribunal presented photos of his baptism as evidence of his guilt, and Hu was forced to confess to his crimes, after which he accepted his sentence and did not appeal.

Hu, a Beijing University alumnus and former instructor at the Beijing Language Institute, formerly served 16 years of a 20 year prison sentence for founding an organization that opposed the Communist Party.

On Aug. 4, Zhou Shifeng was coerced into confessing to his crimes. Zhou, a Christian attorney, was arrested on suspicion of “subverting state power” on Jan. 8, 2016. In an attempt to publicly authenticate their charges against him, authorities pressured Zhang Kai, a human rights lawyer known for his defense of more than 100 churches affected by the cross demolition campaign, to travel from his home in Inner Mongolia, attend the trial, and conduct an interview in which he denounced Zhou and the other imprisoned human rights lawyers. Zhang later recanted his statements, saying he had been too frightened to stand up to the authorities. Consequentially, officials barred him from social media and attempted to arrest him again.

On the night of Aug. 25, 2015, government personnel broke into a church in Wenzhou, Zhejiang and took Zhang and his two legal assistants into police custody. After holding him incommunicado for six months in an unofficial prison known as a “black jail,” China forced Zhang to confess on television on Feb. 25, 2016. A few days later, he was taken into criminal detention and released on bail on March 23. Since then, he has lived with his parents in Inner Mongolia.

Another Christian lawyer, Li Heping, vanished into police custody on July 10, 2015, followed by his brother, attorney Li Chunfu, on Aug. 1 of that year. Li Heping was formally arrested on Jan. 8, 2016, on suspicion of “subverting state power.” Since their disappearance, family members have not been able to contact either of the men.

The cross demolition movement, which began in 2014 as part of a beautification campaign known as “Three Rectifications and One Demolition,” continued in Zhejiang province during 2016. Although official rhetoric claims the operation intends to address “illegal structures,” it specifically discriminates against Christian churches and imposes strictures on the crosses that adorn the exterior of their buildings. In 2016, the number of crosses demolished surpassed 1,800.

Zhang Chongzhu, a pastor who was placed under “residential surveillance in a designated location,” otherwise known as a “black jail,” in September 2015, was originally held in police custody for his opposition to the cross demolitions,. On Feb. 5, he was criminally detained for “stealing, spying, buying, or illegally providing state secrets or intelligence to entities outside China.” He was formally arrested on March 9 for the same crime. On May 9, he was released.

Now, Zhang faces a new challenge; on Oct. 29, the Zhejiang Provincial China Christian Council and the Zhejiang Provincial Three-Self Patriotic Movement, China’s two state-run Christian organizations, expelled him from the clergy and revoked a certificate proving that he was licensed to preach. This triggered outrage among local Christians, one of whom speculated that the government terminated Zhang Chongzhu in order to keep citizens from attending house churches.

In addition to previous restrictions on religious activity, Henan province published a work plan devising to bring “illegal” Catholic and Protestant churches in line with the Party’s ideologies. According to the official document, the authorities plan to manage church meetings and force the congregations to eradicate all religious symbols and become more socialist. The timeline outlined by the official document stated the plan was to be implemented on Sept. 4 and run until Oct. 15. The government mandated that the village and sub-district government branches investigate churches, submit reports to their superiors, assist the religious affairs bureau in distributing a notice about the expected changes to the churches, shut down non-compliant congregations, and record how satisfactorily they were able to complete the job as part of their year-end assessment.

Prompted by this decision, the Bo’Ai County Religious Affairs Bureau issued a notice to a house church. Claiming that the church was unauthorized, the bureau ordered it to immediately disband and remove any religious materials within three days. They urged the attendees to conduct religious activities at the local official churches, with which many of them have deep, theological disagreements. Failure to comply with these measures will result in further government interference.

This campaign echoes the new political trend set out in a proposed revision of the Regulations on Religious Affairs, which was introduced by the State Council earlier this month. The revision introduces tighter control on peaceful religious activities, such as punishing house church meetings by imprisoning Christians or heavily fining the church leaders, forbidding religious adherents from attending conferences or trainings abroad, and barring minors from receiving religious education. By passing these regulations, China violates its own Constitution, which guarantees religious liberty and condemns discriminating against religious and non-religious citizens, and breaches the country’s pledges to adhere to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the United Nations’ Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Paraphrasing and quoting an unnamed expert on the Regulations on Religious Affairs, Christianity Today published the following statements on Oct. 3 in an article entitled “Red Tape: China Wants to Constrict Christian Activities with 26 New Rules,” referring to China’s State Administration on Religious Affairs as SARA:

The draft law opens with the assurance that all Chinese citizens are free to believe whatever they want and to engage in religious activity—as long as it’s within the tighter limits. One Chinese religious policy expert, who asked to remain anonymous, summed up some of what the regulations include: No religious activities that are not approved by SARA.
  • No one may provide a venue for religious services that are not approved by SARA.
  •  No one may use their home for religious practices that are not approved by SARA (including home or family Bible studies).
  • No publishing religious materials without approval from SARA.
  •  No foreign or domestic donations may be made to any religious organization that hasn’t been approved by SARA.
  •  No foreign or domestic donations may be made to any religious organization that hasn’t been approved by SARA.
  •  No one may call themselves a pastor without the approval of SARA.
  •  No international religious exchanges may happen without the approval of SARA.
  •  No one may study theology at school without the approval of SARA.
“As you can imagine, these amendments to the administration of religion in China by SARA would in effect leave no space for the house or unregistered church in China, and will significantly curtail many of the activities of the TSPM [Three-Self Patriotic Movement] as well,” the expert told ChinaSource.

In 2015, a major developing case emerged as authorities increased pressure on Huoshi Church, the largest house church in Guiyang, Guizhou province. Though preluded by a police presence when the church moved into a new building in 2014 and the 2015 arrest of Zhang Xiuhong, an accountant and chairwoman at the church who was apprehended when she withdrew church funds at her beauty shop, the situation escalated when Pastor Su Tianfu received an administrative penalty notice on Oct. 21, 2015. It indicted himself, Zhang and a church member named Liang Xuewu for “changing usage plans” of the office space the church rents for its services and ordered them to stop holding religious activities there, despite the church continually reporting its services to the government. Originally, the building was approved for business operations. When they neglected to heed the orders, officials imposed a fine that accumulated 12,960 Yuan (U.S. $2,030) daily.

Su, who is currently released on bail, has been under constant surveillance since Dec. 19 and must use government-arranged transportation for all outings. He is expected to stand trial soon.

Additionally, administrative offices dispatched uniformed and plainclothes personnel to raid the church on several occasions. On Dec. 9, 2015, Pastor Li Guozhi, better known by his alias, Yang Hua, was taken into police custody and sentenced to two consecutive, five-day administrative detention terms a day later for the “crime of obstructing justice” and “gathering a crowd to disturb public order” after he attempted to prevent officials from confiscating a church hard drive. When his wife came to collect him on Dec. 20, she witnessed him donning a black hood and being herded into an unlicensed vehicle. Upon further inquiry, she learned that her husband had been charged with “illegally possessing state secrets” and was being transferred to another facility for criminal detention. She was not allowed to contact him. On Jan. 22, she received a notice announcing his formal arrest and changing his charge to “divulging state secrets.”

Even with his impending trial, which is expected to take place this month, authorities only permitted Yang to convene with his lawyers beginning in March. During one meeting, lawyer Chen Jiangang and his co-counsel, Zhao Yonglin, noted that he appeared fearful and began to suspect that he had been tortured. On their next visit, Zhao transcribed an interview with Yang in which he described how the prosecutors assigned to his case had stepped on his toes and threatened to kill him and harm his family in order to extract a confession from him. After hearing this, Chen and Zhao filed a lawsuit against the prosecution team and asked that they be criminally punished for “using torture to extort a confession.”

During one of his pre-trial meetings, Yang requested that Zhang Wei, one of the prosecutors in his case, be disqualified from hearing the trial on account of his torture allegations. Chen and Zhao have furthered this request by submitting a document requesting both the disqualification of Zhang and a transferal to a new court.

In the highest profile case of Christian persecution since the Cultural Revolution, China ousted Gu Yuese, chairman of the Hangzhou branch of the China Christian Council, from his position as the head pastor of China’s largest Three-Self Church on January 18. Later that month, Gu was arrested on a falsified charge of “embezzling 10 million Yuan (U.S. $1.6 million) in funds,” although many Christians believe authorities incarcerated him for his opposition to the cross demolition campaign. On April 1, he was released and placed under “residential surveillance.” His case demonstrates the rampant spread of religious persecution as China clamps down on both house and state-run churches.

As 2016 progressed, religious persecution continued to intensify. In Xinjiang, a politically and ethnically restive region wrought with religious tension, authorities apprehended dozens of Christians in the last two months. One of them, Ma Huichao, was taken from her home in September, where she and four other Christians were gathering for a church service. As a result of the service, she was charged with “gathering a crowd to disturb public order,” and her trial of the first instance commenced in mid-November. According to Li Dunyong, her defense attorney, he was barred from pleading innocent on her behalf. Currently, the court is adjourned.

Recently, two Hong Kong residents, Lin Haixin and his wife, vanished into police custody for running a church that specialized in offering assistance to individuals suffering from addictions and mental health problems. The church was raided, and officials confiscated its computer and religious materials, banned it from holding religious services and dispersed Christians gathered there.

For two days, local Christians tried unsuccessfully to contact them. Some speculate that they were taken away for holding so-called “illegal religious activities” without registering.

Concerns over the safety of human rights lawyers spiked in the past weeks as Jiang Tianyong, a prominent human rights lawyer turned activist following his disbarment in 2007, disappeared, believed detained. He contacted his wife shortly before boarding a train from Changsha to Beijing, after which no one has been able to successfully reach him. He had been returning from a trip to visit the wife of Xie Yang, another human rights lawyer who was imprisoned during the lawyer crackdown last year, and helped her petition for his release. In the past, Jiang has been incarcerated for his work and suffered torture at the hands of the authorities.

On the morning of Nov. 29, the brother of veteran human rights activist Peng Ming received a call from prison authorities saying that Peng had suddenly collapsed while watching television and was found dead. However, three days earlier, Peng had received a visit from his brother, who reported that the prisoner was in satisfactory health. When he arrived at the hospital and tried to place a call to his sister, who lives in California, officials took the phone from him and related their version of the story. Peng’s family has since demanded an autopsy to confirm the cause of his death, and the Chinese government has warned them not to travel to China for the funeral.

At the time of his death, Peng was serving a lifelong prison sentence that began on May 28, 2004, when Chinese agents lured him into Burma while he was visiting his parents in Thailand and abducted him. After arriving in China, he was charged with leading a terrorist organization and kidnapping and possessing counterfeit money and given a life sentence. Upon investigation, the U.N. Working Group on Arbitrary Detention concluded in 2005 that authorities arbitrarily detained Peng, violating his right to freedom of expression and association.

China is unwilling to commit to furthering religious freedom and human rights, which caused both a significant demise of human rights under the Xi Administration. Western policies can hold the country accountable for abuses of basic freedoms.

It is time for the West to shift their paradigm from appeasing China to truly principled engagement. Like what happened before in the West during Hitler’s rule of Germany in the 1930s, the current policy of ignoring China’s anti-democratic system of governance in pursuit of economic opportunity will likely produce irreparable damage for the fundamental interests of the free world.

Recommendations:

I urge the Trump Administration and members of Congress, including President Trump himself, to meet with religious leaders and family members of prisoners of conscience and visit religious sites- especially churches, mosques and Tibetan Buddhism temples when visiting China in order to:

1. Raise cases not only behind doors, which has proved non-effective so far, but in public as well. Look at what happened to the prompt release of the "China feminist 5" after interventional outcry, including public demands by Secretary John Kerry and United States Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power.
2. Use multi-faceted approaches to religious freedom and human rights. The "human rights dialogue" mechanism has failed, be it bilateral or multilateral. After all, FoRB is a universal value. If the Chinese regime only sees the West as interested in talking about this issue behind closed doors in a compartmentalized way, it's nothing but a green light for the abuses to continue.
3. Adopt a concerted, internationally coordinated effort by working jointly with our allies in Europe and other regions. The release of imprisoned human rights lawyer Zhang Kai and Pastor Wen Xiaowu, who were freed after the Communist Party received enormous international pressure, are good examples of how well this method works.
4. Pressure China to stop committing violations of international law by overstepping their own nation’s boundaries to detain dissidents such as Jiang Yefei and Dong Guangping, who were taken back to China from a detention center in Thailand; Peng Ming, who was kidnapped after being lured into Burma by Chinese special agents and died on Nov. 29 while serving a life sentence; and five Hong Kong booksellers, who disappeared into police custody for selling gossip books about the private lives of Chinese officials.
5. [Editor’s note: Fu added these last two points to his speech. They were not in the original document]Compel the Trump Administration to continue to push down China’s internet censorship, otherwise known as “The 21st century Berlin Wall” and “The Great Firewall” and make internet freedom a priority.
6. Pass the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act, which would allow the U.S. president to place sanctions on human rights abusers. The Trump Administration must also work closely with allied nations to pass similar bills in other countries.

In conclusion, China continuously violates its own laws and international statutes safeguarding religious freedom and human rights in favor of promoting a socialist agenda, forcing dissidents and religious devotees to choose between certain persecution and disregarding their deeply-held beliefs. Additionally, it prosecutes lawyers who attempt to defend the rights of religious practitioners and activists, completely disregarding the rule of law. International governments must publicly and proactively organize efforts to persuade China to free those it unjustly holds behind bars and refrain from unproductive, behind-closed-doors conversations on these matters. Should the international community fail to do this, they will be communicating to China that they care more about trade than human rights, permitting these abuses to continue.


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Associated Press
By Matthew Pennington
Dec. 7, 2016 4:50 pm EST

■ Washington (AP) — Exiled Chinese dissidents on Wednesday urged President-elect Donald Trump to champion human rights in China and recognize self-governing Taiwan as "a full democratic country."

Several former political prisoners spoke before at congressional commission days after Trump spoke by phone with Taiwan's president in defiance of decades of diplomatic convention. That has fueled speculation Trump could adopt a tougher American policy toward China although he has shown little interest in advocating for civil liberties in the communist-ruled nation.

Rebiya Kadeer, an exiled leader of the Muslim Uighur minority, told the hearing: "Any sign that the United States is ready to relinquish its commitment to raising human rights concerns in favor of achieving policy gains elsewhere will be a victory for China."

Yang Jianli, a veteran of the 1989 pro-democracy protests in Tiananmen Square that were crushed by China, said Trump should focus on American values and "strike directly at the vulnerable spots of the regime to force China's democratic transition."

Yang advocated modification of U.S. policy on Taiwan "to reflect a full democratic country status and affirm its legitimacy by allowing Taiwan to be a normal member of the international community." That would imply a shift in the "one China" policy adhered to by Washington since it switched diplomatic recognition of China from the self-governing island of Taiwan to Beijing in 1979.

He also urged U.S. support for more democracy in Hong Kong, where critics say China has moved to erode the city's semi-autonomous status.

Yang has previously criticized Trump on China human rights issues.

In March, he co-authored a newspaper commentary faulting Trump for saying during a Republican presidential debate that "a strong, powerful government" had put down the Tiananmen Square protests. Trump said he didn't endorse the crackdown, but he did liken it to putting down a "riot."

Two Republican lawmakers also urged Trump to prioritize human rights in his China policy. Rep. Chris Smith said the new administration should "shine a bright line" on abuses, a sentiment echoed by Sen. Marco Rubio, who was a rival of Trump for the Republican presidential nomination.

Rubio appeared to criticize Trump's pick for ambassador to China, Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad, who has known Chinese President Xi Jinping for more than 30 years and has long promoted his state's trade with China. Rubio said the ambassador should reflect human rights priorities, "not simply someone who is going there to catch up with old friends."

Wei Jingsheng, who spent 18 years in Chinese prison for his democracy advocacy, urged the Trump administration to follow through on threats to impose trade tariffs on China, saying that the U.S. would win a trade war as China cannot risk losing its U.S. market.


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Radio Free Asia
2016-12-07

■ Authorities in the northern Chinese city of Tianjin have indicted prominent rights lawyer Li Heping on unknown charges, paving the way for a trial, while other lawyers detained in a July 2015 crackdown remain in pretrial detention.

Tianjin police passed Li's case to state prosecutors in the city on Dec. 5, defense attorney Ma Lianshun told RFA.

"[We] went to the No. 2 branch of the Tianjin People's Procuratorate ... where they told us that they were indicting him [on Dec. 5]," Liang said. "They told us to call back to find out the charges against him ... but then they said they couldn't confirm my credentials, so I can't tell you what they are."

An employee who answered the phone at the Tianjin People's Procuratorate No. 2 Branch declined to comment.

The defense attorney for jailed rights lawyer Li Heping
discovered he was relieved of duty when he vistied his client
in detention, Feb. 18, 2016.
Photo courtesy of an RFA listener
Fellow rights lawyer Liang Xiaojun told RFA that officials there had also refused to reveal the charges against Li when he contacted them.

"They had tables set up outside because it was Rule of Law day [on Tuesday]," Liang said. "The procuratorate had set up tables outside to receive visitors, and we were able to meet with a department head."

"I brought up the issue that law enforcement agencies had refused to recognize the lawyers hired by [Li's] family to defend him, and of the illegal actions of the police in finding a lawyer for him," Liang said. "The procuratorate said I could lodge an official complaint."

"I told them, 'Even if I do that, you won't pay any attention, or do anything about it,'" he said. "They just hemmed and hawed at this."

Nationwide crackdown


China has detained, questioned, or otherwise placed restrictions on at least 319 lawyers, law firm staff, human right activists, and family members since raids on the Beijing Fengrui law firm launched a nationwide crackdown on the night of July 9, 2015.

At least 16 remain in some form of pretrial detention, mostly on subversion or state security charges, while dozens of others have been banned from leaving the country or placed under house arrest or other forms of surveillance, the China Human Rights Lawyers Concern Group said on its website.

According to Liang, Li's case is being prosecuted because it has already been referred back twice to police for further investigation, the maximum number of times allowed.

However, fellow rights lawyers Xie Yanyi, Wang Quanzhang,and Li Chunfu's cases have all been sent back to police for further investigation, he said.

The four were initially detained in July 2015 on suspicion of "subversion of state power."

Lawyer disappeared

The news of Li's indictment came as a group of United Nations human rights experts called on the ruling Chinese Communist Party to investigate the whereabouts of disappeared rights lawyer Jiang Tianyong, who has been incommunicado since Nov. 21.

Jiang lost contact with friends and family during a visit to the Hunan provincial capital Changsha, during which he visited Chen Guiqiu, the wife of detained rights lawyer Xie Yang, in Changsha.

"We cannot rule out the possibility that Mr. Jiang may have been disappeared by the State agents because of his human rights work," U.N. experts Philip Alston, Michel Forst and David Kaye said in a joint statement on the Human Rights Commissioner's website.

"Over the past years, we have received information that Mr. Jiang has been arrested, detained, and beaten by the police and state security officers on multiple occasions as a result of his human rights work," the statement said.

It said Jiang's disappearance comes amid hundreds of reported detentions, disappearances, and other forms of official harassment of rights lawyers since July 2015.

"We fear that Mr. Jiang’s disappearance may be directly linked to his advocacy and he may be at risk of torture," the statement said.

Act of reprisal

Alston, who met with Jiang in August on his last visit to China as Special Rapporteur on human rights, said the meeting may also have contributed to the lawyer's disappearance, which would be an act of reprisal under international human rights standards.

"States must refrain from and protect all persons from acts of reprisal," Alston said, adding that other individuals he met with during his visit had also been targeted by the authorities since.

"Governments must provide assurance that no persons will suffer intimidation, threats, harassment or punishment, be subjected to judicial proceedings or to any other kind of reprisals by any means whatsoever, for their cooperation with the U.N. experts," Alston said.

The experts called on the Chinese authorities to investigate Jiang's whereabouts and guarantee him access to a lawyer and his family, as well as the medical care he requires.

Jiang, 45, is in poor health with very high blood pressure, according to fellow activists.

Reported by Yang Fan for RFA's Mandarin Service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.


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Radio Free Asia
2016-12-06

■ Chinese President Xi Jinping's signature anti-corruption campaign relies on a secretive detention system internal to the ruling Chinese Communist Party that routinely tortures suspects to gain confessions, a new report has found.

The "shuanggui" system run by the party's Central Commission for Discipline Inspection has no basis in Chinese law, but is the first to detain and question officials for suspected corruption, often holding them for long periods in secret and placing their family members under house arrest.

Wang Qishan, head of the Chinese Communist Party's Central
Commission for Discipline Inspection, in undated photo. AFP
And according to a new report from the New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW), detainees under its "special measures" are often subjected to prolonged sleep deprivation, enforced stress positions, deprivation of food and water, and beatings.

"President Xi has built his anti-corruption campaign on an abusive and illegal detention system," HRW China director Sophie Richardson said in a statement on the group's website.

"Torturing suspects to confess won’t bring an end to corruption, but will end any confidence in China’s judicial system," she said.

HRW called on the Chinese government to abolish the shuanggui system, which is an extrajudicial process that takes place before any criminal charges are laid, and which sets a detailed blueprint for all the judicial processes that follow.

The report, based on in-depth interviews with four people who have been through the shuanggui system, also incorporates dozens of media reports and court verdicts that refer to it.

HRW China researcher Maya Wang told RFA that the party's internal investigation system has no basis in current Chinese law.

"It affects a very large number of people, and we believe that this is a very serious violation of human rights," she said.

"The CCDI system, in theory, is an internal party investigatory process that should be entirely separate from state agencies," she said. "But our investigation has found that state prosecutors play a direct role in it ... using it to extract confessions from suspects who have no legal protections whatsoever."

Disappearance starts process


All 88 million members of the Chinese Communist Party are subject to this system, which typically targets government officials and key public figures.

"The start of a shuanggui investigation is often marked by an individual’s disappearance," the HRW report said. "Family members are given no notification of the person’s detention or location, no information about the alleged infraction, or the length of detention."

"Detainees have no access to lawyers ... [and are typically held in] rooms in hostels with special features, such as padded walls or a lack of windows, to prevent suicides or escapes," it said.

Detainees are guarded round-the-clock and repeatedly interrogated by CCDI officials, the report said, detailing media reports of at least 11 deaths in shuanggui custody since 2010.

"If you sit you have to sit for 12 hours straight, if you stand then you have to stand for 12 hours as well," one former detainee told HRW. "My legs became swollen, and my buttocks were raw and started oozing pus."

Forced shuanggui "confessions" are often obtained with the cooperation of the state prosecution service, and later accepted routinely as evidence in court, HRW found.

"Eradicating corruption won’t be possible so long as the shuanggui system exists," Richardson said. "Every day this system threatens the lives of party members and underscores the abuses inherent in President Xi’s anti-corruption campaign."

Stripped of identity and treated roughly


The HRW report chimes with earlier accounts of the shuanggui system from rights lawyers, former Chinese officials, former inmates and journalists.

Canada-based political analyst and former Xinhua journalist Jiang Weiping, who served six years in prison on charges of revealing state secrets after he wrote articles exposing official corruption, said the shuanggui system has the power to destroy a person's life.

"Official suspects are of a different order to ordinary suspects; they are indefinitely detained under the party's internal shuanggui system, without recourse to due legal process," Jiang said.

"Suddenly, they are stripped of their personhood, and shunned by all around them, superiors and subordinates alike," he wrote in a September commentary broadcast by RFA's Mandarin Service. "Their colleagues avoid them like the plague."

"They are treated roughly and submitted to the full set of party 'housekeeping' skills until they are forced to confess," Jiang wrote.

According to HRW, the party's internal investigators are increasingly hiring medical staff to treat victims of torture to minimize the embarrassment caused by deaths in their custody.

Meanwhile, defendants who complain about the lack of legal protections when their case arrives in the legal system are threatened with being sent back to shuanggui, the report said.

"In shuanggui corruption cases, the courts function as rubber stamps, lending credibility to an utterly illegal Communist Party process," Richardson said. "Shuanggui not only further undermines China’s judiciary – it makes a mockery of it."

Acquittals are extremely rare, and investigators who abuse inmates are often promoted rather than punished, the report found.

Reported by Ng Yik-tung and Sing Man for RFA's Cantonese Service, and by the Mandarin Service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.


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United Nations Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner

■ Geneva (6 December 2016) – A group of United Nations human rights experts has urged the Chinese Government to immediately investigate the whereabouts and fate of a prominent human rights lawyer, Jiang Tianyong, who has disappeared since 21 November 2016.

Mr. Jiang Tianyong has represented clients in a number of high-profile cases in China, including clients that carried HIV, Falun Gong practitioners, Tibetan protesters and victims of the 2008 milk scandal, as well as well-known rights defenders.

“We cannot rule out the possibility that Mr. Jiang may have been disappeared by the State agents because of his human rights work,” the UN experts noted. “Over the past years, we have received information that Mr. Jiang has been arrested, detained, and beaten by the police and state security officers on multiple occasions as a result of his human rights work.”

“Combined with the reports of hundreds of human rights defenders in China that have been harassed, arrested, criminally charged, detained, or gone missing since the ‘709 crackdown’ in July 2015, we fear that Mr. Jiang’s disappearance may be directly linked to his advocacy and he may be at risk of torture,” they said.

Mr. Jiang’s whereabouts are unknown after he visited Changsha, Hunan Province, to meet with a family member of a human rights lawyer who had been arrested in last year’s crackdown, and who is detained at the Changsha Detention Centre. While in Changsha, he accompanied the family member and three other lawyers to the detention centre to inquire about the detainee’s situation.

The last communication from Jiang was a message to a friend in the evening of 21 November, informing that he would board the train to return to Beijing the next morning. Authorities in Beijing, Changsha and Zhengzhou, where Mr. Jiang is a registered resident, have reportedly refused to investigate his disappearance.

The UN Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, Philip Alston, who met with Mr. Jiang in August during his visit to China, said he was deeply concerned that Mr. Jiang’s disappearance may have occurred, at least in part, in reprisal for his cooperation with the UN during his visit to China.

“The international standards are clear: States must refrain from and protect all persons from acts of reprisal,” Mr. Alston said, noting that that other individuals he met during his visit to China have also been harassed and subjected to what appears to be reprisals.

“As an essential condition to all country visits of the Special Procedures mandate holders, Governments must provide assurance that no persons will suffer intimidation, threats, harassment or punishment, be subjected to judicial proceedings or to any other kind of reprisals by any means whatsoever, for their cooperation with the UN experts,” he stressed.

The UN human rights experts, who are in contact with the Chinese authorities to clarify the issues in question, have urged them to investigate Mr. Jiang’s whereabouts and guarantee him access to a lawyer and his family, as well as the medical care he requires, given his poor health.

(*) The experts: Mr. Philip Alston, Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights; Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances; Mr. Michel Forst, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders; and Mr. David Kaye, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression.

The Special Rapporteurs and Working Groups are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms of the Human Rights Council that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity. Learn more, log on to: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/SP/Pages/Welcomepage.aspx

UN Human Rights, country page – China: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Countries/AsiaRegion/Pages/CNIndex.aspx

For more information and media requests, please contact Ms. Junko Tadaki (Tel: + 41 22 917 9298 / jtadaki@ohchr.org ) or write to srextremepoverty@ohchr.org

For media inquiries related to other UN independent experts:
Xabier Celaya – Media Unit (+ 41 22 917 9383 / xcelaya@ohchr.org)

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