China Aid January 2014 Newsletter

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Christmas in most democratic countries means exchanging gifts with friends and singing “Silent Night” with families at home and church to celebrate the birth of Jesus. For Pastor Zhang Shaojie, his family and friends, this Christmas meant detention, separation and torture.

Ever since the 49-year-old was kidnapped on Nov. 16 from his church in Nanle County by Chinese security agents for defending the weak and powerless in his congregation against injustice, his family members and friends seemed destined to have an extraordinary Christmas.

First, more than 20 church leaders including his own brother, sister an
d son-in-law, were detained. Then his daughter Yunyun, with her infant, was forced to run, hiding in one village and another.

On Dec. 23, when multiple dozens of believers, Christian lawyers, netizens and friends showed up near Pastor Zhang’s home in China’s central Henan province, the government mobilized several hundred thugs and security agents who started beating the visitors.

One Christian charity leader, Mr. Cao Nan, was detained in a cage, which Chinese call a “dog home,” in the local police station where he was sprayed with pepper spray the whole night.

On Dec. 21, Pastor Zhang’s youngest daughter, Shanshan, was kidnapped along with two of her friends in a shop when they tried to purchase a pair of shoes for a defense lawyer involved in the case.

On Christmas Eve, four lawyers, along with Pastor Zhang’s wife and elderly parents and a few netizens from other parts of the country, were all besieged in Zhang’s house by security agents. Anyone who tried to leave the house was subjected to beatings.

So this would be inevitably deemed as the “Detained Silent Night.”

Meanwhile, thousands of miles away in Midland, Texas, our office was like the situation room during a war. Between 10:15 p.m. CST on Dec. 23 and 10:26 p.m. CST on Christmas Day, when a last message told me the “guards and attackers finally left,” we received thousands of messages, photos and videos about every moment of the incident. We had our own reporters there, entrenched in the middle of the chaos.

What amazed me most is what happened inside Pastor Zhang’s house. Although they did not have freedom to leave during the Christmas holidays, they were joyful and even singing the “Silent Night” around the dinner table, laden with Chinese dumplings (see photo below). Yes, there were sorrows because some of their family members were held in cold prison cells. But as one Christian lawyer, who spent the detained Christmas night at Zhang’s home, said “We were indeed privileged to have the opportunity of experiencing the true meaning of Christmas,” which we all know is that the Son of man was born “not to be served but to serve. And to give His life as a ransom for many.”(Matthew 20:28)

For our busy staff at ChinaAid and those hundreds of thousands who spent the “Detained Silent Night” in Nanle County and many parts of China, we do know peace does not solely mean “without war.” For what Jesus said is “In me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)

Thank you all for continuing to empower us to enjoy such a privileged Christmas.

P.S. Pastor Zhang Shaojie is actually the President of the government-controlled the Three-Self Patriotic Movement and Chinese Christian Council of Nanle County. We are proud to support him and his fellow persecuted pastors who choose to stand up and speak up for the true Gospel.

Henan house church faces persecution since November

A Nanle County Christian
Church member worships at an
outdoor service on Nov. 30.
The Nanle County Christian Church in China’s central Henan province has faced heavy persecution of the last few months, beginning with the detainment of church’s pastor and 23 other believers.

On Nov. 16, Pastor Zhang Shaojie attended a meeting with the Nanle County Public Security Bureau chief and a deputy in the church. During that meeting, more than a dozen police officers entered the building, bound Zhang and took him into custody.

After Zhang’s detainment, believers gathered in front of the public security bureau building to protest, resulting in the detainment of more than 20 other believers.

On Nov. 17, church members were unable to attend worship service as officials had blocked the doors to the church building. In addition, the government required local business and schools to open on Sunday, forcing Christians to stay busy.

Similarly, on Nov. 30, Nanle county authorities issued a notice condemning the church building, saying that it was in danger of collapsing and demanding that believers meet elsewhere.

Pastor Zhang Shaojie
When believers met at a pre-approved site to worship the following Sunday, Dec. 1, officials swarmed the site. The Christians fled to an empty space near an uncompleted road. From there, the director of the Nanle County Religious Affairs Bureau asked those leading the group to return to the building with no mention of the previous notice.

This persecution has persisted to present day. Only handfuls of believers are able to gain entrance to the church before guards sufficiently staunch the incoming flow of Christians.

In addition to blocking the church, the government has also refused to cooperate with lawyers representing the detained believers. Xia Jun, leading a delegation of 14 other lawyers from various parts of China, has been detained and threatened throughout the case.

On one occasion, Xia and colleagues were turned away at the prison gate because of a “blackout,” only to be told to return at a later time. When the lawyers returned, they were again turned away for the same reason.

Xia Jun, lead lawyer, holds a lantern
that reads, “Looking for Zhang Shaojie.”
Xia, in turn, showed up outside the Nanle County Public Security Bureau with a cloth lantern. Painted on the lantern was a message: “Looking for Zhang Shaojie.” Xia persisted in asking passersby if they had seen Zhang.

On another occasion, when Xia and two colleagues attempted to file suit against the local public security bureau, they, along with a group of British journalists, were forced to barricade themselves in an empty office when a group of government hired thugs attacked them, an occurrence that has been common in this case of persecution.

More believers were detained on Dec. 21 when they tried to enter the Nanle County Christian Church to hold a worship service. Later that day, the pastor’s daughter, Zhang “Shanshan” Linxin, and two other believers disappeared after leaving the Zhang residence at around 3 p.m. local time.

Zhang Shanshan and two believers who were with her were released six days later. Many believers detained in November have also been released, but as many as 13, including the pastor, remain in detention.

Over the course of this incident, the government has been surveilling the church and the Zhang family. The government has rented three floors of an office building across from the church where they keep tabs on who comes and goes from the church. In addition, the government has placed plainclothes officers and hired-locals at the Zhang home to monitor the family.

On Christmas Eve, the Zhang family and several visitors were trapped in the home by those guarding the door. A series of altercations occurred beginning with a young mother who, upon trying to visit the family, was beaten in front of her four-year-old son before being allowed to enter the house.

The next day, one lawyer trapped in the home tried to leave only to have his laptop, along with documents, IDs and cellphone, which were in his laptop bag, ripped away from him while he was shoved back into the house. Another lawyer attempted leave soon after, armed with a kitchen knife. Instead of getting through the crowd, he was surrounded, beaten and taken into custody. He has since been released.

Since the persecution began, Nanle County Christian Church has released a letter calling for aid and attention in hopes of exerting pressure on the government. In addition, Bob Fu and several other prominent Chinese human rights activists organized an open letter to the State Administration for Religious Affairs, the China Christian Council and the Three-Self Patriotic Movement Committee.

Shaanxi Christians under arrest for peacefully inquiring about local public security bureau’s intent to arrest house church pastor

Feng Tiandong
Three Christians from inland Shaanxi province will be officially arrested if the local procuratorate approves the Zizhou County Public Security Bureau’s request to move forward with criminal charges.

A believer from the church told ChinaAid that the wife of one detainee, Zhang Baolin, contacted him on Monday, telling him that the case was being submitted to the procuratorate and asking that the man consult with Zhang’s lawyer to see what actions could be taken. Lawyer Lei Xiaodong, who represents another detainee, Jiang Mao, confirmed to ChinaAid that the request was submitted prior to the New Year.

At this time, it is unknown if the Zizhou County Public Security Bureau will move forward with charges against a fourth man who was detained at the same time as the other three. The only information known about the fourth man is that he is 70 years old and has very few, if any, relatives in the area.

The detainees, including Zhang, Jiang, the elderly gentleman and Feng Tiandong, Zhenzizhou Church’s pastor, were all previously placed in criminal detention on charges of “organizing and using an evil cult organization to obstruct the law” ( The charge spawned from events on Nov. 15 when a group of 40 believers from Zhenzizhou Church, including Zhang, Jiang, the elderly man and Feng went to the Laojundian Police Station to ask Liu Xiaofeng, the director, why police wanted to arrest Feng.

ChinaAid has also learned that the families of the detainees may be experiencing threats authorities. Zhang’s wife, who only gave her surname, refused to speak to ChinaAid’s reporter about the case. “I can’t talk about it. In the past, some reporters called me at home, and I was threatened by the authorities,” Ms. Han said.

The above-mentioned believer reported that Jiang’s lawyer had told him that authorities at the prison where Jiang is held wanted 2,000 yuan (US$330.50) and two cartons of cigarettes for his release. The believer said that no move to meet this demand has been made.

Jiang Mao
Jiang was taken into custody on Dec. 1. His family learned of his detention on Dec. 10, one day after they began asking officials to investigate his disappearance when the Zizhou County Public Security Bureau released a detention notice. Feng was taken from his home on Dec. 9.

Another local pastor familiar with the situation reported that a young man from the church, Xue Zhuang, was detained for approximately five days, only to be released on Sunday when his family “bought him out of jail” for 10,000 yuan (US$1,652).

ChinaAid has also learned that the Zizhou County Party Committee has appropriated funds specifically for this case and founded the “1115 Special Team,” in reference to Nov. 15, in response to requests from the provincial government to increase investigations concerning those involved.

Below is an excerpt from a letter, explaing the circumstances surrounding Jiang’s disappearance, written by his daughter, Jiang Huiwen:
“After my father went out on the afternoon of Dec. 1, 2013, I could no longer get into contact with him. When I called him on Dec. 2, 2013, his phone was always “powered off.” At first, I thought his cell phone had run out of battery, so I didn’t pay too much attention to it.

However, we still couldn’t get through to my father on his cell phone by Dec. 6. We contacted all our relatives and friends and during this time none of them could get through to my father. In the early morning of the next day, we went to

report this disappearance at the county’s Criminal Police Brigade. By Dec. 9, there was no progress on this case. We urged them again and again, and they simplywouldn’t file a case. It was not until the afternoon of Dec. 10 that someone from Zizhou County Public Security Bureau of Yulin Municipality called me and told me that my father had been arrested by them.

I graduated from college this year. After graduation, I haven’t gone out to look for jobs and have been taking care of my mother and my brother. My brother got seriously sick this year and the court hasn’t opened session on my mother’s accident that occurred in September. At the time of the accident, my mother was seriously injured. She suffered fractures in five ribs, a shattered clavicle, a concussion, a hemothorax, [a condition where blood accumulates in the chest cavity around the lungs,] and ear problems. While my mother was hospitalized, it was my father who took care of her. My mother has not yet healed from her injuries and still needs my father to take care of her.

My father also has a bad health. He has serious diabetes, and now I really worry about my father’s situation.”

Nanle County Christians risked their own well-being
to being food and water through a mob of government-
hired thugs to lawyers and journalists after the group
barricaded themselves in an empty office to keep the
mob at bay.
In her father’s absence, Zhang Shanshan led
many worship services.

Pastor Zhang Shaojie’s eldest
daughter, Zhang Yunyun,holds her 
infant daughter, Jessie.
Photo courtesy of SkyNews

Small groups are sometimes able to make their way into the
church before guards arrive at the doors.

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