May 10, 2011
The Standing Committee of the National People's Congress and Chairman Wu Bangguo,
We are Chinese citizens. We love our country, care about the society and the welfare of our countrymen, and obey and respect the authority of the government to maintain social order. We are also a group of Christians belonging to the universal Christian Church. We have observed the conflict between state and church unfolding recently in our capital Beijing and have so far seen no sign of the conflict being resolved, therefore, in accordance with law, we are lodging this Petition to you as the holder of the highest state authority.
Beijing Shouwang Church is very representative of the rapidly growing urban churches that have newly emerged in the last several years. Its place of congregation is located in the Zhongguancun area in Beijing. Its congregants are mainly intellectuals and well-educated professionals, and during the past several years, the number of its members has increased from several hundreds to more than one thousand. Since April 10, 2011, in light of the problems with Shouwang Church’s place of congregation, many of its members have held outdoor services for several consecutive weeks, and several hundred members have been detained and questioned by the police. In addition, the freedom of several hundred members (including the main leaders of Shouwang Church, such as its senior pastor Jin Tianming) has been illegally restricted, and they have been put under house arrest and prohibited from stepping out of their homes to participate in the worship services. In fact, Shouwang Church was forced in 2009 by governmental pressure to leave its rented place of worship and hold outdoor services. At the end of that same year, Shouwang bought 1,500 square meters of property at the second floor of Daheng Science & Technology Building in the Zhongguancun area in Beijing. But again, due to governmental pressure, Shouwang can not obtain the keys by any means even though it has fully paid for the property. Shouwang was forced once again in April 2011 to abandon its rented place of congregation. As a result, more than one thousand members have nowhere to go and have to hold outdoor services to worship God. All this has led to the serious crisis between state and church that is still unfolding as yet.
We believe that the Shouwang Church incident is not an individual, isolated episode that happens to a single church, but rather a typical phenomenon in respect of the conflict between state and church during the period of social transition. Such conflict has arisen due to the fact that the outdated system for religion management has not been adapted to the development of the church. The tribulations of Shouwang Church have profoundly stirred up the feelings among the tens of millions of Chinese Christians as brothers and sisters in their common faith. Similar incidents where a local church was forced to hold outdoor services due to governmental pressure on place of congregation took place in Shanghai, Guangzhou, Chengdu and Linfen as well in 2009. With the incessant growth of the number of urban Christians and the continued expansion of the church, the conflict between state and church of this sort is likely to continue to break out. In view of the representativeness of the Shouwang Church incident, and the significant impact of this incident on the future relationship between state and church in our country, we hereby lodge this Petition.
It comes to our attention that "liberty of religious faith" is accepted and provided for in Article 36 of the Constitution of the People’s Republic of China, Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (to which China is a party), and Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which was signed by the Chinese government.
We believe that the definition of "religious liberty" stipulated in Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is both accepted by the Chinese government and in compliance with our faith:
Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.
Therefore, religious liberty is comprised of freedoms of assembly, association, speech, education and evangelism. As one of the longest, largest and most widely distributed faiths in the world, Christianity enjoys the above-mentioned freedoms in most countries.
Yet, for the last 6 decades, the rights to liberty of religious faith granted to our country’s Christians by the Constitution of the People’s Republic of China have not been put into practice. According to the current policy for religion management, unless Christians join the strongly politically-charged National Committee of Three-Self Patriotic Movement, their various religious activities (including congregation, worship, ceremony, formation of church, construction of church buildings and evangelism) are still being restricted and suppressed by various governmental management departments.
The Honorable Chairman Wu Bangguo, each and every Honorable Member of the Standing Committee, and each and every Honorable Deputy to the National People's Congress, with the heart-felt wish to have this country blessed, and based upon the rights to suggestion-making, criticism, complaints and charges as granted to citizens by Article 41 of the Constitution, we lodge this Petition to you, and ask you and the Standing Committee to initiate the special investigation procedure and set up the special investigation commission for "liberty of religious faith" according to the provisions in Article 71 of the Constitution for the following purposes:
1. to conduct investigation into the incident where Shouwang Church can not have a fixed place to hold regular worship services, and to press the Beijing Municipal Government to come up with a sound solution in accordance with law;
2. to review the currently effective Rules for Religious Affairs to determine whether the Rules are constitutional or not; and
3. to propose to draft and adopt the Law of the People’s Republic of China for the Protection of the Liberty of Religious Faith.
We believe that liberty of religious faith is the first and foremost freedom in human society, is a universal value in the international community, and is also the foundation for other political and property rights. Without the universal and equitable liberty of religious faith, a multi-ethnic, multi-religion country would not be able to form a peaceful civil society, or bring about social stability, ethnic solidarity or the nation’s prosperity.
We hope that by means of setting up the special investigation commission, the government will be able to handle the Shouwang Church incident in a rational and wise manner on basis of the principle of “putting people first and ruling the country by law” and in the gracious spirit of serving the citizens, so as to avoid the escalation in scale of the conflict between state and church, turn this crisis into an opportunity, and hence give rise to a new stage for the benign interaction in the relationship between state and church.
As both Christians and citizens who deeply love the country, we are willing to pray continually for our countrymen and the government, and pray for a rising China that needs to shoulder more universal responsibility. We plead for God to grant the graces of peace, harmony, stability and development, let the culture of righteousness, faith, love, tolerance and goodness permeate the entire society, and fill China with the Lord's glorious presence.
The house church leaders who will pray and watch for this Petition:
Reverend XIE Moshan
Reverend LI Tianen
Signatories to this Petition:
JIN Mingri (Pastor, Zion Church, Beijing)
ZHANG Fuheng (Pastor, Zaidao Church, Beijing)
WANG Yi (Elder, Early Rain Church, Chengdu)
ZHA Changping (Minister, Spring of Life Church, Chengdu)
CUI Quan, (Pastor, All Nations Evangelical Church, Shanghai)
YU Rongfu (Pastor, Golden Lampstand Church, Shanghai)
HUANG Lei (Pastor, Xiashangtang Church, Wuhan)
GAO Quanfu (Pastor, Light of Zion Church, Xi’an)
WANG Wenfeng (Secretary General, China Forum on Theology, Wenzhou)
ZHENG Leguo (Minister, White Elephant Church, Wenzhou)
ZHOU Ming (Pastor, Olive Tree Church, Beijing)
WEI Hong (Pastor, Song of Songs Church, Beijing)
WANG Desheng (Pastor, Anhua Church, Beijing)
WANG Shuangyan (Pastor, New Tree Church, Beijing)
TAI Changnan (Christian name: SONG Mingdao, Pastor, Holy Love Church, Beijing)
SHAO Changyu (Pastor, Grain of Wheat Church, Beijing)
PEI Junqi (Pastor, Huimin Church, Beijing)