Following Christ in China

Interview With Leader of Advocacy Group for Chinese Christians

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ROME, JAN. 17, 2011 ( Bob Fu could have been one of the casualties at the Tiananmen Square massacre, if his girlfriend (now his wife) hadn’t gotten sick a few days before the Chinese government sent the army to squelch the student-led, pro-democracy demonstrations. 

Though he wasn’t on the square that day, the massacre changed Fu’s life — it was the moment that he lost faith in communism. His subsequent arrest eventually led to his conversion to Christianity and his escape from China. 

Now Fu directs the U.S.-based China Aid foundation, which garners international support for Christians in China. 

Fu spoke with the television program «Where God Weeps» of the Catholic Radio and Television Network (CRTN) in cooperation with Aid to the Church in Need, about his life in China and the future for Christians in his homeland. 

Q: You were one of the student leaders in Tiananmen Square. Can you tell us what happened? 

Fu: Yes, at that moment, along with many other hundreds of thousands of Chinese students, I was in Tiananmen Square and basically protesting the massive corruption in the Chinese government and also pursuing freedom and democracy and human rights. The demonstration — held over several weeks — was met, on the early morning of June 4, 1989, with military tanks and hundreds of thousands of Chinese soldiers from the People’s Liberation Army. The soldiers started shooting their own people. I had actually left Tiananmen Square three days before the massacre happened because my then girlfriend, now my wife, was very sick. 

Q: What happened after the event? 

Fu: After the massacre, I was basically under «soft detention,» as they call it. A special team of investigators was formed to investigate and interrogate me day and night and I was not allowed to go to my classes at the university. Every day I was treated like a prisoner; they waited for me to crack and sign a confession. I was also required to report about everybody who was involved in the student movement. 

Q: Did you, in the end, crack? 

Fu: I was not cracked by the Chinese Communist Party, but really cracked by the Holy Spirit. So, I had a revolutionary change in my life. 

Q: You lost faith in the system? 

Fu: Yes, I did because I had put my hope in the system. I tried to be active in the political field and tried to change the Communist party by joining their party activities. 

Q: You believed in it? 

Fu: Yes, I was relying on the system to change the system, but when the PLA stated shooting their own people and innocent lives were shed, all our dreams were broken and from disillusionment to despair I almost committed suicide until I came to know my Lord Jesus Christ. 

Q: How did you come to know Jesus? 

Fu: It happened during that moment when my life was in crisis. I did not know how I would survive the next phase of the interrogation. I had tried to change others but many of my so-called friends betrayed me by lying in order to show their loyalty to the Communist Party. So I was full of hatred; I wanted to kill them and then kill myself. It was at this moment that somebody gave me a book — a biography about a Chinese pastor. It was brought in, actually smuggled in, by my American Christian teacher who was teaching English at our department. Reading that book turned my life upside down. 

Q: You just said: “Yes, Lord” 

Fu: Yes, and the book narrates about how a former drug addict, a very smart intellectual, came to embrace the Christian faith and was totally transformed and became a new creation in Jesus Christ. 

Q: The Chinese police, the secret police, discovered your Bible school. What happened there? 

Fu: Officially I was an English teacher at the Chinese Communist Party School in Beijing. During the daytime I spent several hours a day teaching English to the Communist Party Leaders. The evening and the rest of my time and the weekend were spent busily training house pastors — an underground Bible school — until it was discovered by the Chinese secret police. In May 1996, my wife and I were both arrested and put in jail. 

Q: Imprisoned again. What happened there? How was it for you then? 

Fu: It was tough. The first three days and nights, they would not let you sleep at all. It was sleep deprivation in order to break your will and so the interrogators put you in the interrogation room and each interrogator took their turn to interrogate me non-stop. 

Q: What did they want you to reveal? Was it information or was it simply for you to deny your Christian faith? 

Fu: They wanted me to reveal how many Christians were in my house church. How many students? Where do they come from? Who was funding? Who are the teachers? Basically they wanted me to betray my Christian brothers and sisters. They used my wife the same way. They constantly reminded me: “Your wife is in another room. If you do not reveal anything, she will be jailed there.” 

Q: Did you suffer physical torture? 

Fu: Not really that much compared to many house church pastors, because, at least, I was regarded as a public intellectual. I even have a law degree and I kept on reminding them that they had to obey that law or otherwise I would pursue them after I was released. 

Q: Like St. Paul declaring: “I’m a Roman.» 

Fu: Yes, yes, that is how I reminded them; it was rough, but I would not describe it as torture. They would not let me sleep and I was knocked around a few times but that was the extent of the treatment I received. 

Q: I want to talk a little bit about the Christian communities and how these Christian communities live their faith now. We know, or conservatively estimate, that there are about 70 million Christians. Is that a conservative number; what number could we really be talking about? 

Fu: We have learned from the former national director of the State Administration for Religious Affairs (SARA), Mr. Ye Xiaowen, that in 2007 the number of Chinese Christians had already reached 130 million including the Catholics. So conservatively you can say at least 70 to 130 million. In Beijing alone, I met with a very respected pastor of the international church and before he left China, he was informed by the director of the Religious Affairs Bureau that the city of Beijing alone has more than 9,000 house churches. So, the growth is unprecedented: In 1949 when the Communist Party took power, there were less than a million Christians, and when we look even at the conservative number of 70 million — that is quite a growth in 60 years. 

Q: And yet the Christians are often violently repressed? 

Fu: Yes, though to be fair, in the past 30 years, there have been positive changes and progress not only in economic prosperity, but also in terms of religious freedom; nonetheless, overall, religious freedom is not completely without problems. There is still widespread persecution in many areas of China. 

Q: You fled China. What prompted you to finally leave your home country? 

Fu: We were imprisoned for two months. Because of international pressure and because they were not able to find hard evidence to indict us, we were released. We found that life outside prison was much harder than being inside. We were taken back to the police station time and again and they basically wanted us to be informants. We had to report every phone call, every visitor — it was very tough. One time the security people took my wife and I to a park and they reminded us that they could arrest us anytime. We found out from an inside source that we were on the re-arrest list because of our uncooperativeness. My wife at this time was pregnant and without a pregnancy permission card. 

Q: Just a little bit of background: What is this pregnancy permission and how does it work in the one-child policy? 

Fu: The Chinese government has carried out this birth control, or one-child policy, bas
ed on the theory that there are limited resources and the only way to make the existing population achieve economic wealth is to limit the size of the population. So they, in general, allow each family to have only one child. So when you want to have your first child after marriage, you are required to get a pregnancy permission card — a yellow card before your wife can legally get pregnant — otherwise you are arrested and are forced to have an abortion. The pregnancy permission card is issued by the woman’s work unit and as my wife, Heidi, was at this time dismissed from her graduate school from the People’s University because of her imprisonment, she could not get the pregnancy permission. 

Q: Permission would simply not have been given? 

Fu: No, and we actually tried to find Christian doctors who were working at a hospital in Beijing and we tried one hospital who had a Christian doctor and the doctor simply could not help us because of fear of losing his job if he assisted in caring for my wife. 

Q: So you were facing an abortion? 

Fu: Yes, so we had to escape in the middle of the night by me jumping from the bathroom of the second floor of this tall building. 

Q: You fled to Hong Kong and then from Hong Kong to the United States? 

Fu: Yes, we left Beijing first and hid in the countryside because we did not have a passport or any travel documents. We imagined that we could never get out of China, but, really, God showed us his miracle and with lots of prayers and plenty of help, we were able to get to Hong Kong and then in 1997 to the United States. 

Q: I’d like to get back to this question of the one-child policy. What impact is this having on Chinese society? 

Fu: I think the impact is manifested in different aspects. Number one: The Chinese traditional concept on the importance of having a boy: Every family wants to have a boy and this has already caused a huge imbalance between the male and female populations. Number two: You have a huge crisis of aging parents. One couple now has to support two pairs of parents because of this one-child policy. Number three: There is a massive practice of forced sterilization and abortion going on. Last year, there was a report of about 20 million babies who were aborted and abortion being performed as late as nine months. I, personally, had a phone conversation with a Christian lady, a wife of a pastor, who said that she was in a hospital and was eight months pregnant and beside her on another bed was a lady who was nine months pregnant. That night 80 pregnant women were forced to have an abortion by poison being injected into the fetus. This is murder on a massive scale. 

Q: What does this do to the psychology of a nation? 

Fu: This is another ramification of such a policy. These women become depressed and the suicide rate is quite high. And this one-child policy forces the parents to spoil this one child creating a very self-centered child. Last year, Time magazine had an article on China’s one-child policy: “China’s Me Generation.» This has created a selfish generation — the me, me, me, self-centered generation. The ramifications of this policy are just starting to manifest themselves and create another huge social problem. 

Q: Does funding come from abroad for this one-child policy and where is it coming from? 

Fu: The one-child policy is of course a national, central government policy, though a large portion of the funding ironically comes from international organizations such as the United Nations Population Fund, which has donated hundreds of millions of dollars. The U.S. provides funding and $40 million goes to China to assist in carrying out this one-child policy. So, unfortunately, the Western countries are accomplices to this policy. 

Q: Why is the government so afraid of Christianity? 

Fu: Spiritually speaking: Darkness diminishes when the light comes, thus darkness hates the light. Christians demonstrate integrity, love and forgiveness and to “darkness” this is a challenge and a threat to their hold on power: a struggle between good and evil. In Chinese history Christianity is regarded as something foreign (yang jiao) and the Chinese government, especially the Chinese Communist, adheres to the atheistic — really anti-Christian — ideology. Through political propaganda, they pump up this hate ideology to oppress Christians. They portray Christians as the enemy of the people, collaborating with the West to overthrow the Chinese government and on and on. 

Even benevolent activities of Christians are not acknowledged or are completely disregarded by the government. During the earthquake, Christians who were assisting were arrested because they were simply praying for the victims. So there are different approaches to oppressing and intimidating the Christian communities. I heard that after the collapse of the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe the Chinese government became very nervous. 

Q: Because they see that as an example of what could happen? 

Fu: Yes, they said: Yesterday it was their big brother; next would be the little brother, like China. 

Q: Can the Christian lamb tame the Chinese dragon? Are you hopeful for Christianity and for your country? 

Fu: I’m very hopeful. I think the Gospel of Jesus Christ is unstoppable. Physically you can bind many Christians, throw them in jail or in labor camps, but it turns out that God turns these jails and labor camps into harvest fields. So many people have come to know the Lord in these labor camps. Even camp officials have been converted when they saw the light from these Christians in the labor camps. So, I’m very optimistic and I think China in the 21st century will not only be a mission-receiving country, but also in the foreseeable future China is being prepared to bring the Gospel back to Jerusalem, and maybe become a mission-sending country all over the world. So I’m very optimistic. 

* * * 

This interview was conducted by Mark Riedemann for «Where God Weeps,» a weekly television and radio show produced by Catholic Radio and Television Network in conjunction with the international Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need. 

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