Updated: Christian leader commits suicide over China's religious policies

Thursday, July 18, 2019

The first page of Chinese
church leader Song
Yongsheng's suicide
note. (Photo: ChinaAid)

(Shangqiu, Henan—July 18, 2019) A leader of a state-run church in China’s Henan province leapt to his death in yesterday after experiencing growing despair over the Chinese Communist Party’s religious policies.

Reverend Song Yongsheng, whose name means “eternal life,” said he hoped that his “martyrdom” could help bring light to the Chinese regime’s abuses before he jumped from a building on July 17. Song was the chairman of Shangqiu’s Three-Self Patriotic Movement (TSPM) and the president of the city’s China Christian Council (CCC). The two organizations serve as China’s only official Christian institutions, and it is illegal to practice Christianity in churches not within the TSPM network.

In the past few years, the Chinese government has introduced a “Sinicization” campaign that aims to alter religions in order to bring them in line with the Communist Party’s agenda. As such, new regulations have been instituted, bringing religions under increased restrictions and persecuting those who do not comply, even if they are simply practicing their faith.

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of Shangqiu Municipal United Front Work Department,

and Municipal Ethnic and Religious Affairs Bureau

1. To date, the “2018 Religious Group License and Legal Person Registration” of the Municipal CCC & TSPM [Editor’s note: “CCC & TSPM” refers to the China Christian Council and the Three-Self Patriotic Movement, China’s two state-run Christian organizations] has not been renewed. The chief reason is because of the turnover of leaders who oversee the religion bureau, resulting in no seal on the application. Currently, the civil affairs bureau requires an annual examination. As one person in the CCC & TSPM can’t solely serve as the legal representative of the CCC & TSPM, we requested that an additional person be designated as the legal agent of the CCC, namely the candidate: the vice president of the Municipal TSPM and the secretary-general, Yan Jianxin.

2. I petitioned the Municipal United Front Work Department and ethnic and religious affairs bureau to open an intersection in front of the Municipal Christian Tongxin Church on Jianshe Road. As the sidewalk in front of the church is extra-long, believers often cannot find the intersection to enter the church when west-bound vehicles arrive at the church, and then when leaving, drive the wrong way on the one-way road to enter the intersection on the east sidewalk. When they couldn’t find the entry at the gate of the church, believers’ vehicles from the west to the east would be traveling west and enter the church via the exit on the west sidewalk.

Believers complain that due to many seniors driving their electric rickshaws, accidents often occur. The Municipal CCC & TSPM handed in an application to departments at different [government] levels and have reported this concern via phone. We understand the difficulty leaders experience and would like to stand in solidarity with the Party and government, but the potential dangers are enormous. The Planning Bureau and Urban Construction Bureau should be “people-oriented” and help resolve this situation. Even provincial leaders who have visited the church couldn’t find the entrance when they tried to enter the church from the west to the east. They also reportedly drove the wrong way on the one-way street to enter. When believers are involved in accidents, people typically blame the leader of the church. The sight of believers injured and bleeding in traffic accidents made my heart bleed. I can’t bear seeing this happen any longer.

3. As David’s deer (not an organ, church, association, company) [Editor’s note: It is unclear what the author means using this phrasing, but it might be a reference to Psalm 42:1, which states, “As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God.” By using this reference in this context, the author could be expressing a deep desperation for which he feels he needs the intervention of God], the Municipal CCC & TSPM are now in a plight. The Municipal CCC & TSPM have stood in solidarity with the Party and government since February 2018. We have hurt six kinds of people [Editor’s note: it is unclear as to which six types of people he is referring], and we “reported the facts” to the Municipal and District United Front Work Departments and religious departments, but they did not respond. As a leader of the Municipal and District CCC & TSPM, I am drained mentally and physically.

The office funding, which should be allotted to the Municipal and District CCC & TSPM, wasn’t provided to us. Now, the Municipal and District CCC & TSPM are on furlough; with only one person on duty each day. Because of the wage system, I am stressed and feel exhausted. The leader must be responsible for problems. When the higher-ups come to examine, leaders give us limited time, and usually no one checks.

4. Because of an error on behalf of the Liangyuan District Civil Affairs Bureau personnel in charge of annual examinations, the Christian group was written off. The seal of the administrative department in charge and the seal of civil affairs department are required when the religious group intends to register again. Religious groups must follow rules when applying for these seals. Yesterday, the department in charge repeatedly postponed the approval of the application. In time, the report arrived, but it turned out to be the opinion of the District United Front Work Department, not the seals.

My heart is exhausted.

5. Several months ago, when the Municipal Christian Tongxin Church applied for official registration, we reached out to the leaders numerous times. Due to the concern that those higher-ups might delay the process, we intentionally left the date off the application materials delivered to the district bureau. We can be flexible with the date as it seems that we are not actively applying. My heart is crying.

6. Liangyuan District dealt with Pankou Church, which invited two ministers from other regions to speak at a 2-week training. Three elders and two ministers originally involved should have written self-criticism texts to the district religion bureau, but the district CCC & TSPM asked employees to pick up the self-criticism texts yesterday. Is not this internal strife? If we don’t take the higher-up’s opinions, we are not standing with the Party commission and government. If we take this stance, however, internal chaos occurs. I am indeed in a dilemma. Because no one will speak out for you when you offend them, and because of the previous kinds of mistrials, I feel depleted. I don’t want to make many enemies.

7. I am on the first, second, third, and fourth Shangqiu Municipal Standing Committee of the CPPCC; on the second, third, and fourth Liangyuan District Standing Committee of the CPPCC; the president and director of the Shangqiu Municipal CCC & TSPM; the president and director of the Liangyuan District CCC & TSPM.

During the 23 years I worked in Shangqiu, I could feel the difficulty the grass-roots “religious groups” of Christianity experienced. Although I used my faith and charming personality to strive to build a good internal relationship and a working relationship with the government, this effort failed. In order to implement the essence Secretary-General Xi Jinping delivered at the religious conference, “make the most of the influence of religious groups, and passionately resolve religious groups’ difficulty,” I would like to be the first martyr.

As a pastor, I would like to stand politically in solidarity with the Party and government from the perspective of faith. By awaking the acute awareness of departments in charge about religious groups’ active roles, caring for the mental and physical health of religious groups, and easing their stress, Christianity would be in the new phase of Sinicization, legalization, systemization, and normalization.

I am drained, exhausted, and have no mental or physical stamina to deal with these many complicated issues. By martyring myself, I hope that I can awaken different-level departments of the Party and government, including the planning department and urban construction department, so that they would become “people-oriented” and serve people. In the meantime, I hope the entry to the church on Jianshe Road will soon be available.

Thank you.

Member of the first, second, third, and fourth Shangqiu Municipal Standing Committee of the CPPCC;

Member of the first, second, third, and fourth Liangyuan District Standing Committee of the CPPCC;

President and Director of the Shangqiu Municipal CCC & TSPM

President and Director of the Liangyuan District CCC & TSPM

Song Yongsheng

July 16

I communicated with different departments the entire morning. Leaders are welcoming yet remain helpless regarding securing a safe entrance to Jianshe Road; the application for the land certificate; and the openness for the registration certificate of the Municipal Christian Tongxin Church. I feel hopeless. At 3:00 p.m. this afternoon, I went to the land bureau and consulted with the Liangyuan District Land Bureau. I am undeniably exhausted. I have no strength at all. I cannot continue.

July 17

Just now, Pastor Yan was asked to pick up feedback at the Liangyuan District Religious Bureau.

I am truly mentally exhausted.

I am waving my hands to you all at the gate of Heaven.

See you in Heaven, coworkers….

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