Kidnapped Chinese Christian lawyer details persecution

BEIJING (BP) -- A kidnapped Chinese Christian attorney held in Beijing chronicles China's religious persecution in a book smuggled from the country and published in the U.S., even as Chinese President Xi Jinping pledges to control religion there.

Renowned attorney Gao Zhisheng's book "Unwavering Convictions" was released just two days before Xi delivered an hours-long speech encouraging, the Washington Post reported, the purest Marxist communism and religion that is "Chinese in orientation" and guided by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).

The China Aid religious freedom organization said in an Oct. 17 press release that Gao's book chronicles, among other ills, the CCP's consistent religious persecution in 2016; the party's suppression of political rights, speech, information and ideas; its abuse of labor rights; a governmental lack of respect that enables sex trafficking of women, seniors and children; and Gao's personal abuse by the CCP.

Bob Fu, China Aid founder and president, said in the press release Gao's report "further validates the findings of the international community, which indicate that the overall situation on human rights, rule of law, and religious freedom in China has reached its worst point since the end of Chairman Mao's Cultural Revolution."

Gao was kidnapped in August from his home in Shaanxi, China Aid said, and is being held at an undisclosed location in Beijing. He was captured during the same period the CCP rounded up and detained at least 14 activists in advance of the CCP's 19th Congress meeting through Oct. 25 in Beijing, the Chinese Human Rights Defenders (CHRD) reported. The CCP placed others under house arrest and comparable restrictions, the CHRD said in its latest China Human Rights Briefing released Oct. 17.

In a speech lasting three-and-a-half hours on the opening day of the 19th Congress, Xi promoted total control of China's religion, morals, culture, economy and the internet, the Washington Post reported Oct. 18.

Southern Baptist Theological Seminary President R. Albert Mohler lamented Xi's exhortation, noting China's religious persecution already is severe.

"The indoctrination of just about every level of Chinese society by the repressive power of the Communist Party has been reasserted.... We have seen this developing over time," Mohler said in his Oct. 19 Briefing podcast. "But what happened yesterday in that three-and-a-half-hour speech and in the successive days of the Chinese Communist Party Congress is the announcement by the Congress that it is even going to take control of religion. And by that it means it's a doctrinaire Marxism that has to be the religion of the land."

The CCP has persecuted Gao, a two-time Nobel Peace Prize nominee, since 2005 stemming from his advocacy for human rights including religious freedom. He penned Unwavering Convictions in secret in 2016, China Aid said.

According to its press release, China Aid smuggled Gao's book to the U.S., translated it into English and published it in cooperation with the Human Rights Foundation and Christian Solidarity Worldwide.

"Gao Zhisheng vanished again and has been under the authorities' watch for more than two months," Fu said. "The Chinese government should give a full account for what is happening to him and disclose his whereabouts without delay. We urge President Trump to speak to Chinese leaders about this deteriorating human rights situation and raise the case of Gao and other prisoners of conscience when he visits China in early November."

Among other Christians persecuted or suppressed in advance of the CCP congress is missionary and pastor Yan Xiaojie, who was released from prison in early 2016, China Aid said.

"Wenzhou authorities keep harassing me, asking me to report to the police station every day and coming to my home daily," China Aid quoted Yao as reporting in a letter. "They seriously disturb my family's life -- especially that of my two elderly [parents] -- my life and my work."

Yan voiced opposition in 2015 during a government-led campaign to destroy crosses in Zhejiang province, China Aid said, and the Wenzhou Municipal Public Security Bureau placed him in administrative custody.

"In the end, I don't know why [they harass me]?" Yan said in his letter, China Aid said today (Oct. 20). "[In 2015], they captured me for no reason, and I was shut for half a year in a small, black room. Inside, I was constantly hurt and attacked.

"I have not exposed them to the world, because they do not allow me to tell about the things that happened inside the prison. I have not yet started to protest and complain," Yan wrote. "Do we Chinese people have human rights at all?"

According to the CHRB, most of the 14 people they reported as detained in advance of the CCP Congress were charged with "picking quarrels and provoking trouble," a charge used by police as a pretext for incarcerating government critics.

China is ranked 39th on the 2017 World Watch List of Christian persecution released by religious freedom advocates Open Doors USA.

Diana Chandler is Baptist Press' general assignment writer/editor. BP reports on missions, ministry and witness advanced through the Cooperative Program and on news related to Southern Baptists' concerns nationally and globally.
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