Martyrdom of Liu Haitao Confirmed in China

Tuesday, April 17, 2001

Young Christian Dies from Police Beating
by Paul Davenport
April 17, 2001

LONDON (Compass) -- On October 16, 2000, twenty-one-year-old Liu Haitao from Henan province in central China died as the result of severe police beatings. Although the immediate cause of his death was a kidney ailment that flared up after police mistreatment and a harsh imprisonment, there is no question his death was the result of his witness for Christ, which makes him a martyr for the faith. Local Christians in the area plan to observe October 16 as a memorial day to the life of the young Christian.

Christian martyrs were once commonplace in China, especially in the years of the Cultural Revolution (1966-76). Now they are exceptional, but the story of Liu's death does illustrate how common police brutality is for many hundreds of Christians detained each year. As a house church leader in Loyang shared, "At any one moment, there are probably well over a hundred Christians detained for their faith and receiving severe beatings from sadistic policemen. Many of them have permanent injuries as a result." The callous disregard among officials for Liu's worsening condition, even to the point of refusing to arrange transport from prison to hospital when he was about to die, almost defies belief.

Privately, a government source in Beijing described the death of Liu as "a bad mistake." He said, "The government does not wish to create martyrs, because they make religion uncontrollable. Better to squeeze the church than smash it -- history has taught us that much at least."

But all of China's officials stand condemned. Central government officials have expanded the powers given to local police to stop, search and interrogate suspects, and more martyrs are to be expected. Toothless courts fail to hold sadistic policemen and officials to account.

No one has yet publicly expressed the slightest remorse to the family of Liu Haitao since his death six months ago -- an irony not lost on some with China insisting the American president apologize to the family of a Chinese airman who died colliding with an American spy plane.

The following report was written recently by a mainland Chinese Christian detailing the death of this young Christian in China last year.

"On 16 October, 2000, in Xiayi County, Henan Province, China, the young Christian brother, Liu Haitao, was martyred for His Lord.

"Liu Haitao was born on 24 of the sixth month (Lunar Calendar) in 1979, in Liufanglou village in Jiyang rural district of Xiayi county, Henan. In 1996, he graduated from middle school. As a child, he often learned to pray from his mother. In spring 1999, he fully repented and became a Christian.

"After his conversion, he walked close with the Lord and made rapid progress in his spiritual life and knowledge. He was hungry for God's Word and particularly enjoyed attending Bible studies. His commitment was noticeable to others. He wrote in his diary: 'The Lord has saved me with His limitless love and given me eternal life and sonship. I cannot receive His grace in vain or despise His salvation. I am sad because over 90 percent of the Chinese people are still ignorant of Christ. If the Lord will use me, I will willingly give my youth and my entire life to the work of evangelism.'

"On 4 September, 2000, Brother Haitao was arrested with 27 other believers while attending a training session. They were imprisoned in the jail in Qinyang City in Henan. Haitao often encouraged and exhorted his brethren and prayed for them.

"He was in prison for 23 days. On 27 September, the police in Qinyang notified the different county authorities to take back the prisoners and gave them each certificates for release. But when Liu Haitao and another brother were taken back to Xiayi, not only were they not released, but a further charge of 'using cult-teachings to destroy the implementation of national laws and regulations' was added, and they were handcuffed and detained. But Liu's church is completely orthodox in its Christian faith, holding the Bible to be divinely inspired and believing in the Trinity.

"On 28 September, the Xiayi Public Security issued an arrest warrant and demanded his family to pay 5,000 RMB ransom. His parents were unable to raise this enormous sum, so he had to stay in prison. He was beaten by the other prisoners and tortured by the police under interrogation many times.

"As a result, his kidney disease flared up, and he lost consciousness several times. He asked for treatment many times but was ignored. Even his fellow prisoners relented and appealed for medical help for him, but the guard just replied, 'He's OK. He won't die. He's living a heavenly life!' Finally, as his breathing got worse, they notified his family.

"On the afternoon of 14 October, his father immediately rushed to the city and saw how his son was severely ill. When he appealed for urgent medical treatment he was told, 'The prison has regulations; it's forbidden for anyone to be let out at night. If you bring money for the prison doctor, he'll do what is necessary.' He immediately handed over 100 RMB and returned home.

"The next day, he and his wife hurried back to the jail and demanded their son be allowed medical treatment. But they were told there was no vehicle available -- they would have to hire their own. So his father hired a three-wheeled taxi.

"Haitao was not only seriously ill, his legs were weighed down with heavy shackles. He had no strength to walk, so his father helped carry him to the taxi, and together with the prison doctor, they went to the hospital. His father asked Liu if he had been given any treatment. He replied they had given him a few pills but no injections. Embarrassed, the prison doctor then refunded 90 RMB.

"On arrival, the doctors saw his condition was grave. To absolve themselves of all responsibility, the Public Security then rushed around to give him a release form, and about 5:30 p.m. he was finally unshackled -- only six hours before his death.

"About midnight he died peacefully, but before that told his mother, 'I am very happy. Truly! Keep the faith and follow the Lord to the end.' He died in his mother's arms whispering a faint but clear 'Amen!' as she was praying.

"Dear Lord, forgive them -- they know not what they do. Lord, have mercy on us -- have mercy on China! May Your gospel spread throughout China. May Your great love flow down from the cross and melt these heavy chains and the even colder and crueler hearts of men! Lord, have mercy and save our fellow countrymen!

"A grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, but it brings forth more grain. After great persecution, there is great revival.

"After his death, the Christians in every district held memorial services. The leaders fasted and prayed for two days, and there was a great revival. They repented in tears of their divisions and asked forgiveness of each other. A solemn memorial service was held on 16 November, 2000. Banners were displayed stating, 'Brother Liu suffered in silence for the gospel' (he had refused to betray any of his brethren) and 'Remember the Martyr at the beginning of the New Millennium.' In his message, the preacher stated that Stephen had been a young man and the first martyr; Brother Haitao had been persecuted to death by the police for the sake of the gospel.

"The local churches decided to hold 16 October as a memorial day every year and set up a fund to give his parents 300 RMB each month for living expenses. The Christians present all gave generously. They prayed, 'Heavenly Father, we praise You through our tears. Brother Haitao has fought the good fight and already run the race. We know a crown of righteousness is laid up for him and for all who follow in his steps. Please comfort his parents, to exchange their sackcloth for garments of joy. We pray for his church and for the two brothers still in prison. May the Lord keep all the brothers and sisters in peace and establish this suffering church. May it brave the storms and still stand firm on the Rock. Lord, hear our united prayer! In Jesus' name, Amen!'

"Across China, more and more bands of Christian soldiers have stood up, saved by the great grace of Jesus Christ and willing to bear their cross."

-- Written by Xiao Ruozhi, a Chinese Christian. Edited and translated for Compass Direct by Paul Davenport from the original published in "Shengming Jikan" (Life Quarterly), No. 16, Chicago.

Copyright © 2001 Compass Direct News Service. Used with permission.