If they lived in the United States or other Western countries they would no doubt to tracked by the FBI or Interpol, with their long arrest records and multiple prison sentences.
But these are Christians pastors whose typical crime is conducting worship services and consorting with church members to hold peaceful meetings.
In communist China, these Chinese pastors would be featured on China’s Most Wanted, since they and members of their churches are considered criminals by Chinese police and officials.
They are often arrested on trumped up charges and denied the right to even attend the trials of church members charged with crimes. The crimes would often sound ridiculous or bizarre to American ears. This year, leaders of the Fushan Church in Linfen, Shaxi province, were found guilty of sharing the gospel with minors, including school children, illegally sharing the gospel with the young, illegally gathering church members and severely jeopardizing social order.
The charges are actually the result of an attack by communist police and thugs at about 3 a.m., Sept. 14 of last year, three weeks before the 60th anniversary of the communist takeover of mainland China, when as many as 17 of their church buildings were destroyed by communists, with the help of a few bulldozers.
What is troubling about all of this is that China that has benefited from significant standard of living improvement in the past decade. Roads in major cities - interstate highways - have been constructed from nothing. New wealthy Chinese are buying new cars to drive on new roads.
And for those Americans who don't know where their personal computer comes from, laptop computers from the majority of all computer manufacturers are made in China, as are many consumer segments like furniture, flat screen TVs, and products sold at major big box stores. China may have learned to be a consumer product, export driven country, but it has not learned from America or other Western countries to respect basic human rights.
And it’s doubtful that most American consumers buying a flat screen TV at an electronics store know the extent to which communist China represses successful Christian pastors and other Christians.
The question is why? Probably because for public officials, there has rarely been a link between trade and human rights. There is very little international pressure to reform basic freedoms. Missouri and Illinois officials are looking to land a China air cargo hub in the St. Louis area. They are hopeful that they will prevail, after flying to Beijing to meet with Chinese officials there. Are these Chinese officials the same ones who perpetrate the mistreatment of Chinese pastors and church members. It’s doubtful. But should that be of little concern to American officials seeking to profit from China?
Where do human rights in China rank in the mind of TV news anchors like Diane Sawyers, Katie Couric or Brian Williams? Why isn’t the injustice in China anything like Apartheid in South Africa in the 20th century? The oppression of blacks in South Africa was the cause of the international press corps and certainly many in the U.S., like Sen. Ted Kennedy, who encouraged or demanded that international firms boycott or divest from trade with South Africa until things changed.
The truth is that in recent years, inferior or dangerous children’s products made in China have garnered more headlines that human rights. China has benefited from this silence, bulking up on cash from exports, selling more and more cheap goods to the U.S. and other Western countries. And now that we have become dependent on cheaply made shoes, we are faced with the need to police a currency exchange rate that keeps prices low.
Nine pastors from Fushan church were taken away after the attack by China’s Public Security Bureau last year. The pastors oversee as many as 40,000 Christian believers in Linfen house churches. Police and thugs beat up church members in the predawn darkness, injuring 100 in all, sending 20 to the hospital.
The communist party made sure this church felt the full wrath of communism; they ordered that needed blood transfusions were refused at local hospitals. The wife of one of the leaders, Yang Caizhen, a gynecologist, was sentenced to two years at a re-education camp. She is reportedly helping to make cigarette lighters. Her daughter is attending a seminary in the U.S.
One popular pastor, Hua Huiqi, of Beijing, has been harassed consistently in recent years. Hua is the leader of Tentmakers Christian Fellowship in Beijing, and a national leader of house churches in China. In 2007, Chinese officials barricaded pastor Hua in his own home after he refused to obey their demands to stop sharing the gospel.
In 2008, he was arrested, detained and threatened by Chinese police shortly before the visit of U.S. President George Bush in August of that year. During the Olympics, he was reportedly beaten to a state of unconsciousness about four miles from the Olympic Stadium. A photo by published by Voice of the Martyrs shows him slumped over, being held by a church member after the attack.
His abduction and persecution in recent years has been reported by Ministry News Network of Midland, Tex., ChinaAid.org, RadioFreeChina.org and Voice of the Martyrs at www.percecution.com. Another leading pastor, Zhang “Bike” Mingxuan, on Oct. 1, 2010, has written his fifth open letter to Chinese President Ju Jintao, an appeal to reform the repressive measures taken by Chinese police and officials against Christians and others. He has been arrested 49 times.
© 2010 Larry Ingram
Based in St Louis,
Larry Ingram writes about the news media, movies and culture, as well as on topics like race, privilege, Christianity, religious expression and tolerance.
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