Chinese Christians Testify of Persecution before UN Commission

Monday, May 10, 2004

Despite testimony of official abuse, UNCHR fails to censure China.

by Xu Mei

NANJING, China, May 10 (Compass) -- For the first time in history, Chinese Christians gave evidence of persecution in April at a special meeting called by the United Nations Commission on Human Rights (UNCHR) in Geneva. Several speakers testified to beatings, imprisonment, torture and damage to church buildings in recent years.

The United States then asked the Commission to consider censuring China for its human rights record. However, 27 of the 53 member-states, including repressive regimes such as Cuba, Eritrea and Saudi Arabia, voted with China to defeat the move.

This is the 11th year in a row that politics within the UNCHR have defeated similar resolutions against China.

Speakers at the special meeting on “Repression of Religious Freedom in China” included Bob Fu, president of the China Aid Association which documents persecution of Chinese Protestants; Xu Yongze of the Born Again house church movement, who was imprisoned five times for his faith; and Brother Yun, hero of the best-selling autobiography The Heavenly Man.

The two-hour meeting was chaired by Lord Chan, a committed Christian and one of two ethnic Chinese peers in the British House of Lords.

Joseph Kung, president of the Cardinal Kung Foundation, submitted a written report on the persecution of unregistered Catholic churches in China. Ben Rogers of Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) spoke on behalf of Joseph Kung at the meeting. He was further supported by Catholic human rights campaigner Harry Wu, who spent a total of 19 years in Chinese labor camps.

Female members of the South China Church also gave testimony of how they were arrested and pressured through torture and sexual assault to give false evidence against their pastor, Gong Shengliang, in 2001.

One of these women, Cao Hongmei, told the Commission that, “They questioned me for about a month. When I didn’t answer them, they would use different kinds of ways to torture me … They also threatened me, saying, ‘We can beat you to death, and throw you into the Han river or dig a hole somewhere to bury you. Who will question us about that?’”

Liu Xianzhi added, “I was taken to Zhongxiang Police Training Center. Six or seven male policemen started to question me in their dormitory. One asked me, ‘Do you know why we arrest you?’ I said, ‘Because I believe in Jesus.’ He slapped my face when he heard this. He said, ‘Do you know what age we are in today? And you still believe in Jesus?’ I didn’t answer him back.”

During the meeting, Bob Fu presented an official document issued in November 2003 by authorities in Qingdao city, Shandong province, as evidence of China’s ongoing campaign against unregistered churches.

Commission members also watched video footage of Chinese authorities destroying a church in Zhejiang province.

The UN hearing was a significant breakthrough in publicizing the plight of China’s unregistered Christians. However, China was able to block any official censure with the support of sympathetic member states.

The Voice of America quoted Nicholas Becquelin of Human Rights in China as saying the decision showed the true balance of power in the UNCHR.

“You have a lot of authoritarian countries who are members of the UN and of the Commission,” Becquelin said. “These states share with China the opposition to the scrutiny of their human rights situations, so they would vote with China to defeat resolutions attacking them.