Chinese pastor writes statement to imprisoned lawyer

Monday, December 6, 2021

China jails citizen journalist Zhang Zhan for four years over Wuhan  coronavirus reports | South China Morning Post
Zhang Zhan, currently serving a four-year sentence
(Photo: South China Morning Post)

(ChinaAid, Washington, DC—December 6, 2021) The author of this article is brother Zhang Tan, a Christian from Guiyang Huoshi Church and the former head of the Christianity division in Guizhou Provincial Religious Affairs Bureau. ChinaAid will host a luncheon tomorrow to honor Zhang Zhan and Gao Zhisheng with the Lin Zhao Freedom Award. 


A dedication to Zhang Zhan

“Acts 20:24: However, I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace.”

“2 Timothy 4:7: I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.”


A friend asked me to write an article about Zhang Zhan. After Zhang Zhan was arrested, I urged all Chinese churches to pray, and we prayed for her during our weekly prayer meetings. When someone launched an online petition campaign to rescue her, I was the first signee. This is a very heavy topic. If I write about the “Zhang Zhan incident”, we can compare which one is more toxic: a biological virus or a dictator virus. We can also discuss why a biological virus and a dictator virus are always entangled with each other. But I was shocked when poet Li Huizhi committed suicide a few months ago due to unbearable surveillance under the regime. Zhang Zhan’s life is also fading by the day. So I thought, my article should first focus on Zhang Zhan’s life.


Many people compare Zhang Zhan with Lin Zhao. Indeed, they are both great female Christians. They were both persecuted by the regime. They both have an attitude toward martyrdom. In my opinion, the letter Lin Zhao wrote to her mother in prison is the greatest poem in contemporary China, because it was written with her life. It’s common to offer sacrifices to ancestors, but Lin Zhao asked her mother to bring her some sacrifices:” I need to eat, mother! Prepare a pot of beef stew, a pot of lamb stew, a cooked pig head, 1 or 2 bottles of lard, 2 cooked pig feet, and a roasted chicken or duck for me. Borrow some money to prepare those if you don’t have any.” Not only did she fully realize the sadness of losing young loved ones, but more “cruelly”, she turned the love between her and her mother into a sharp spear and thrust it directly towards her mother’s tender heart. The letter breaks every reader’s heart. In my opinion, it was a physical reaction towards hunger when she was in prison. It was also a helpless way to express her love to her mother. Probably it was the so-called “Eyes in Their Last Extremity” by Japanese novelist Yasunari Kawabata. According to Kawabata, “Eyes in Their Last Extremity” is the best form of beauty, but most people never get the chance to experience it, because people can only feel it before death. Christians have a different attitude towards life. Lin Zhao is also a Christian. If we look at her martyrdom from a Christian’s perspective, we can see the letter to her mother focused more on her death than the Word.


Zhang Zhan is called “the most devoted Christian in China”. She received the Lin Zhao Freedom Award in 2020. She is under a hunger strike now, regardless of jailers’ forced feeding, international community’s advocates, fellow Christians’ advice, and even her mother’s cries. Her life is “hanging by a thread”, or more precisely, to live is no better than to die for her. She didn’t write a letter like Lin Zhao, but she is writing a more magnificent poem with her life: the Chinese people are not willing to wake up, so she turned her life into a “loud hailer” to share the message about God’s judgment, just like Jeremiah. Jeremiah was abandoned. He was heartbroken. 

Jeremiah 4:19

Oh, my anguish, my anguish!
    I writhe in pain.
Oh, the agony of my heart!
    My heart pounds within me,
    I cannot keep silent.
For I have heard the sound of the trumpet;
    I have heard the battle cry.

Jeremiah 9:1

Oh, that my head were a spring of water
    and my eyes a fountain of tears!
I would weep day and night
    for the slain of my people.

Lamentations 2:11

My eyes fail from weeping,
    I am in torment within;
my heart is poured out on the ground
    because my people are destroyed,
because children and infants faint
    in the streets of the city.


Sister Zhang Zhan is the same. Her life is her only weapon against the regime. She resisted with her life. But when the whole world sees her life becoming weaker and weaker, only about 500 fellow Chinese speak up for her, and Christians only account for a small percentage. When the seed of the gospel needs blood to germinate, she becomes apostle Peter. Apostle Peter was crucified upside down. He gave up his life willingly. His physical body was dead, but his spirit was updated. Whether dead or alive, he gave himself to God. When the judge asked Zhang Zhan who is supporting her behind the scene, she “confessed”:” If there’s anyone supporting me behind the scene, it is Jesus.” Apostle Paul wrote:

Philippians 1:21

For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. 


Galatians 2:20

I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.


Sister Zhang Zhan is also martyring her life like Apostle Paul. She is bearing the cross to follow Jesus Christ. Her martyrship is more about the Word. She is truly making a testimony for God. She is truly exercising “as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death” (Philippians 1:20)


I once wanted to write a letter to Sister Zhang Zhan. I picked up my pen, but every time I put it down. I thought about suggesting she think twice, but it was like Job and his 3 friends. They didn’t have a very strong relationship with God. I was afraid it would only make her feel worse; I thought about encouraging her to continue, but I was afraid of pushing her further and becoming a partner in crime. Before Ignatius was martyred, he wrote in “The Epistle of Ignatius to the Romans”:” Pray, then, do not seek to confer any greater favor upon me than that I be sacrificed to God while the altar is still prepared.” I think Sister Zhang Zhan is in the same mentality as Ignatius. Whether by life or by death, God is always with her! God has this for sister Zhang Zhan: she has joy when she is on earth, and she will have eternal life! Because God promised: “Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it. (Matthew 10:39)”



Zhang Tan

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