Prominent Christian Rights Attorney Issues Investigative Report on Religious Persecution

December 30, 2005 12:00 am Last Updated: December 30, 2005 12:00 am

On December 21, 2005, one of the most prominent human rights lawyers Mr. Gao Zhisheng issued an investigative report regarding persecutions against House Church leaders and Christian believers in Xinjiang Autonomous Region. The Chinese Aid Association (CAA) is authorized to release it with an English translation. That report is appended. The report shows the hard persecution faced by the Christian house churches in Xinjiang. Mr. Gao says in the beginning of his report that though what he “saw is not so soul-stirring or stiflingly brutal as their persecution of Falun Gong adherents”, yet “this did not affect our comments on the brutal crackdown by the local government on the Christian house churches and the illegal arrest of the house church members and the cruel condition of the persecution.”

According to Mr. Gao, who recently dedicated himself to Christian faith, “the brutality, ignorance and sense of lawlessness of the Xinjiang police is not in anyway eclipsed by that of Xuejian He, a policeman in Beijing area who brutally and inhumanly raped a woman Falun Gong adherent,” in his investigation report, he selected the statements of 13 believers to show how these House Church members have been under intensive persecution, including torture and abuse.

Mr. Gao in his report wants to “remind people on a constant basis the danger of continuing to tolerate this anti-humanist power group that slaughters all the positive values—the danger to ourselves—the danger to our beloved sons and daughters.” At the end of his report, he said “it is time for an immediate awakening!”

Mr. Gao has been facing increasing danger because of his continuous stance against human rights and religious freedom violations. Mr. Gao is one of the leading attorneys for Beijing House church pastor Cai Zhuohua's case. He wrote numerous open letters detailing how he and his wife and his 12-year-old daughter have been threatened by the Chinese secret agents since he publicly advocated for persecuted religious minorities. Mr. Gao's law firm was suspended for one year and his law practice license has been revoked by the Beijing Beau of Justice in December 2005.

CAA appeals to the international community to continue to show your concern on the safety of Mr. Gao and his family members. CAA urges the international Christian communities to pray continuously for Mr. Gao and his family and write emails and make phone calls to show solidarity and brotherly love to Mr. Gao.

Gao Zhisheng's Report on Religious Persecution in Xinjiang

While I was in Urumqi from November 15, 2005 to November 20, 2005 to open a court session there, I conducted an investigation on the present condition of the Christian house churches in Xinjiang. This “secret” was actually already made public by Joseph Kahn, the New York Times' Beijing bureau chief who went all the way to Urumqi for the interview.

What we saw is not so soul-stirring or stiflingly brutal as their persecution of Falun Gong adherents, but this did not affect our comments on the brutal crackdown by the local government on the Christian house churches and the illegal arrest of the house church members and the cruel condition of the persecution.

The brutality, ignorance and sense of lawlessness of the Xinjiang police is not in anyway eclipsed by that of Xuejian He, a policeman in Beijing area who brutally and inhumanly raped a female Falun Gong adherent. At the requests of the people we interviewed, we have replaced their true names with fictitious ones. In this investigation report, I will try my best to use the oral statement of the people as it was spoken. I've selected the statements of 13 believers and publish parts of them here:

This is how the Christian Lianru Ma was arrested in November 2003: “As about a dozen Christians and I were gathering at an elderly person's residence (to celebrate Christmas), we sang songs. While we were doing this, people from the local police station, Qitai County Public Security Bureau and Bureau of Religion came in. After they arrived, they ordered us to stop singing and asked us who is the leader of the gathering. When I said I was, they began to take photos of the Bible passages written on the blackboard. After that, they took Christians one by one to a room for written statements. Then, they took a brother and me into a police vehicle and took away the belts on our trousers. When we arrived at a local police station, they made us stay in a conference lobby for introspection. They made me answer their questions while they kept the records. Then they beat me with the belts. They told me that what we believe in is a cult and we don't have their approval. They also threatened to put me in jail if I don't confess in an honest way. According to them, I would be sentenced to at least three years in jail. Then, I answered every of their questions. After all the questions were answered, they got the other brother in for the written record.

“After a while, I saw that they took the donated money and the donation box to the local police station. They took me to a small room and handcuffed me from the back onto a heating radiator. When it was evening, they said I must pay them a fine of 1,000 yuan if I wanted to get out from there. They told me to call home and ask people there to bring money to bail me out. I stood with my back against the radiator till the second day when people from my family came, but they didn't bring money. Under this circumstance, they wouldn't let them see me. So my family still went back without getting anything done. At midnight on the second day, they made me write an IOU slip. After the IOU slip was written, they released me from their local police station.”

Lin Ru, a Christian from Qitai described how she was arrested in Qita County on February 5, 2004: “Over twenty of us were singing together when a loud sound suddenly came from outside. We looked out through the window and saw several policemen jump in from the other side of the wall in the courtyard. After they broke into the room, they told us to freeze. A leader of this group of police, with a camcorder in hand, told us to raise our heads so he could take a video of all of us. Then they told us to take off our belts and line up outside the door while they searched the rooms. The beds and the table were in a mess after the search. They also confiscated about a dozen Bibles we bought from Urumqi and all the Bibles we brought in for that day's gathering. They even confiscated a small radio a sister bought at a wholesale price from Urumqi. Then they herded us into the police vehicle. When we were leaving, a policeman kicked a brother of ours and they took us group by group to the County Public Security Bureau. They brought over armed policemen to guard against us and these policemen took us away one by one for interrogation.

“When it was my turn, they asked me many questions and I answered them one by one. They fined other believers. Some of them were fined 400 yuan, others were fined 300, 200 or even 100 yuan respectively. Yet, they detained four of us and told us to sign summons slips. What was written in the summons is 'illegal gathering,' but 'cult activities' was written on our certificate of detention. Several of us were not willing to sign the summons. The policemen said since there is no such a provision in the law, they had to convict us on this account (cult). At last, we signed one by one and were sentenced to 15 days of detention. In the detention center, they again interrogated several times the brothers with whom I was locked up. These brothers and I were detained for 17 days. When we came out, the people working in the detention center charged us 25 yuan of living expenses for each day we were detained. We paid a total of 375 yuan.”

This is what the believers Shujun Ni and his wife experienced: “On July 12, 2004, a group of Christian tourists came to Changjizhou Railroad Resort. It was a hot day that day. After lunch, none of these people went out. Instead, they rested in the air-conditioned rooms. Some of them were praying and others were discussing matters. Suddenly, about a dozen people broke in from outside. Some of them were in police uniforms and others were in plain clothes. They didn't show any documents nor did they identify themselves. Some of them began to take video images with camcorders and others were taking photos with cameras. As we were stunned by what we saw and didn't know what to do, a policeman in uniform shouted in a loud voice: 'Don't move. Squat down where you are.' He was so vicious as if he were treating prisoners and he didn't allow other people to talk. Then, they began to write down our names, addresses, work units, phone numbers, etc. After registration, we were brought outside and were amazed to see several dozens of police vehicles and three or four military vehicles. There was also a big bus with a full array of policemen and armed police standing nearby. Then, all of us were escorted into that bus.

“It was a hot day that day and the bus was crowded with people. We stood against each other and the bus was like a crucible. We sweated all over and could hardly breathe. In this way, we were taken to a school several miles away. We were locked up in some classrooms and they began to take oral statements. They asked: 'Why did you come here? Who organized the activities? What is the purpose of coming here? Why are you all Christians?' and so on. Then, they made us write our names on a piece of paper and pose for a photo with the paper positioned in front of our chest. As they believed that several of our brothers were 'suspicious,' they put them on 15 days of detention for criminal investigation. As for the others, their local public security bureaus were notified and were brought to their own places for settlement. Some of them were put on criminal detention and others were fined.

“I was brought to Guobao Brigade of Public Security Bureau for settlement in Benlei County where my residence registration is filed. They were very vicious and spoke crudely. After they gave me a session of 'criticism and education,' they told me to write a 'statement of guarantee' in which I stated I understand I am no longer allowed to attend any religious activities or do any missionary work. After that, I was released. My wife was brought to Guobao Brigade of Public Security Bureau in Qitai County where her residence registration is filed. She was fined. After all this was performed, we went back to our permanent residence in Urumqi.

“On July 20, 2004, people from Guobao Brigade of Shayibake District Public Security Bureau of Urumqi came to my house and took me and my wife to the Guobao Brigade. They asked us if we had attended the activities at Changji Railroad Resort on July 12, who organized that activity and other details. After they made written records, I was taken to Xishan Detention Center in Urumqi. On the second day, they again came to the detention center to interrogate me. On the seventh day, they told me to sign on a detention extension. I asked the police officer in charge of my case when I could go out because I would have to take a test for my driver's license on the 29th of the month and I also had to pay the mortgage on the house. A police officer named Ma said: 'We just love to make it impossible for you to take the test for the driver's license and let the tuition you've already paid expire and become invalid. We also want to make you fail to pay the mortgage on the house in time so the real estate company will confiscate your house.'

“On the 15th day, they mysteriously released us without going through any paperwork. Even now we still don't know why this happened. This whole thing happened in Changjizhou and was settled by Changjizhou. Then we were handed over to Guobao Brigade of Public Security Bureau of Benlei County where our residence registration is filed. After this was done, the Guobao Brigade of Public Security Bureau of Shayibake District of Urumqi where my permanent residence is filed again detained us for 15 days. We'd like to know if this is in line with the legal procedure. During her detention, my wife was interrogated on many occasions. Once, she was taken by a police officer from the detention center to Guobao Brigade and was interrogated for 48 continuous hours. It was a torture that brought both mental and physical damage. Director Ma of the brigade slapped my wife in the face several times and even kicked her. A Uighur police officer also slapped my wife in the face several times and tried to force her to tell them who organized this activity, and what purposes it was for. My wife said we didn't have any purposes. It was just a group of Christians having fun in the resort. In addition to this, they lived a life as ordinary Christians—singing hymns, offering prayers and glorifying God. She asked if there was anything wrong with this. However, they said that it was illegal, was not so simple, and that they will punish the people according to law. Even now, I still don't quite understand why the public security policemen of the state regard us Christians with a pure belief as criminals in this country ruled by law.”

Lingzhi Xia (real name in life), an elderly person of 63, came to me choked with sobs: “I went to attend a Christian prayer meeting in a single-storey house in Team 156 on Xishan Road at 15:00 on August 5, 2005. However, before I could settle down in the seat in the room, a group of policemen broke in. They ordered everyone in the room to stand still where they were and said: 'You may only come in, not go out.' I was having diarrhea that day and requested to go to the restroom several times. The policemen wouldn't let me go. I had a handbag with me. Since I wanted to go to the restroom, I opened the handbag to look for the toilet paper. Then I remembered there was some money in the bag (It was from a friend of my nephew to cover my train fare). As I was afraid the money would get lost in the melee, I took it out of the handbag and intended to put it in my trousers' pocket when a policeman from Guobao Brigade of Sha District Public Security Branch saw it. He came over and grabbed the money and also my handbag. In the meantime, he slapped me in the face.

“After that, the policemen began to call the roll one by one. Those whose names were called in the roll were taken to Xishan Local Police Station. They were herded into a meeting room and were then interrogated one by one. When I was interrogated, they asked: 'Who organized this?' I said: 'I don't know.' They then asked: 'Do you know this is an illegal meeting?' I replied: 'If you say it is, then it is.' Because of this answer of mine, they wrote in their record as 'I admit it is.' After the interrogation, I was taken away to have a photo taken of me. Just like criminals shown in the TV, they told me to hold a sign of my own name on the chest. At first, we protested and refused to have the photo taken, but they forced us to do so anyway. After that, we were taken to a place to have our fingerprints made. I couldn't see very well and don't know what my fingerprints were on. Every one of my ten fingers were pressed on a piece of paper and then the whole hand was pressed for a fingerprint. After that, they called the roll. It was already 1 a.m. on the morning of August 6, 2005. I and three other people were taken to a women's detention center in Liudaowan, Urumqi. I was then given a statement of decision on penalty and was told I would be put on an administrative detention for 15 days.

“On August 17, 2005, I was transferred to Liudaowan Detention Center on the charge of endangering the security of the state. During this time, I was interrogated ten times. Due to a long-term and harsh living condition at the detention center and my worries for my husband and daughter at home, I was experiencing great stress. I also have coronary heart disease and high blood pressure, so I have been worrying a lot. Under this circumstance, I was exhausted, confused and couldn't think straight. At the eighth interrogation, I was very excited and experienced great emotional ravages. The policeman named Ren told me that the sooner I confessed, the earlier I could go home. They adopted a tactic of stick and carrot. I still don't know how I was lured by his words. Moreover, since he had beaten me, I have always been afraid of him. Therefore, I told him everything, both true and false.

“On August 31, 2005, my son went to Guobao Brigade and a police officer there told him that I am on the wanted list of Ministry of State Public Security. After he went back home, he became very worried. As my son had always had high blood pressure, events in the past month involving me made him depressed, so much so that he suddenly had a cerebral hemorrhage on the afternoon of the second day (September 1, 2005). He was rushed to a hospital, where he died after the doctors failed to save his life. After my little daughter applied for Awaiting Trial On Bail at Guobao Brigade, I was released from the detention center at 18:30 on the afternoon of September 2. The term for Awaiting Trial On Bail is one year. On that afternoon I was released from the detention center, the people from Legal Section of Sha District Bureau interrogated me once more and told me that I had been sentenced to three years of re-education through labor and put on the list of Ministry of State Public Security. They asked me if I was willing to accept the sentence and I said “No.” On the morning of September 6, 2005, Guobao Brigade called and told us to bring the papers for the Awaiting Trial On Bail. They also told us to bring along 5,000 yuan in cash, saying that the bail by person had been changed to bail by cash. I didn't know why and so I asked them for the reason. The policeman said in a ferocious tone: 'This is the order from our superiors!'

“Since April 2005, I found many times that I was being stalked. I asked the director of Security Section of 9th Geological Team, but the director denied everything. On September 12, 2005, as my daughter and daughter-in-law went to Xishan Local Police Station for matters concerning their residence registration, police officer Jingchen Pian told my daughter and daughter-in-law that I had been sentenced to three years of re-education through labor. They also told them I had been stalked by four people hired by the Ministry of Public Security who started shadowing me from May until I was arrested. I think stalking me is a serious violation of my rights as a free citizen. Moreover, 'Notification of Litigation Rights and Obligations of Criminal Suspects' was read to me by my family after I went back home. It was then that I knew I should have been given this notification after the first interrogation. However, it was not given to me until after the 10th interrogation. Therefore, I did not know at all the litigation rights and obligations I was eligible to.”

“My name is Qimiao Tong. On the morning of September 28, 2005, I suddenly received a call (0998-2685277) and a voice said: 'I'm from Ministry of State Security and my name is Ai.' He wanted me to go to the Bureau of Security immediately because he had something to talk about with me. Due to the inconvenient transportation, I arrived at the gate of Bureau of Security at almost 11 o'clock. This Ai brought me to a room on the second floor of the guesthouse in the back. As soon as I entered the room, I saw two men lying on the bed. One was a person of Han nationality and the other was of Uighur nationality and they were both around 30 years of age. I went over and shook the hands of that person of Han nationality and said: 'I'm so sorry. Since I have a lot of things to attend to and my factory is in the rural area and the transportation is not so convenient, that's why I'm late.' What surprised me was before I could finish the sentence, he flew into a rage and rudely used these cusswords: 'Nonsense! What do you think you are? We saved your face today by not coming to you in a vehicle and bringing you here in a pair of handcuffs. We have been following you for over a year.' I said: 'If you have evidence, you can handcuff me now.' In a split of a second, that person of Han nationality named Wang pushed away my hands with both of his hands and kicked me viciously in the chest. I felt an excruciating pain in the chest and fell to floor in a sitting position. That person of Han nationality still wanted me to stand up and talk to him. I was so weak that I could not speak and only felt an unbearable pain in the chest. I said: 'The pain in the chest is really severe and I'm too weak to talk.' That person said I was merely faking. I asked him: 'Do you know you break the law while being aware of it? What right do you have to beat people like this?' He said: 'We have the right to take proper measures during investigation of a case.' I asked him: 'What law did I break that makes you treat me like this?' At this time, more people came in. One of them is a Han person named Wang and the other person is of Uighur nationality named Ai. As soon as this section chief named Wang came in through the door, he said: 'I've heard you are a hard nut to crack.' I said in a weak voice: 'Why did you beat people like this?' The Wang of Han nationality who had beaten me immediately asked: 'Who beat you? On which part of the body did they hit you?' Section Chief Wang said to me: 'You are a rascal. I've seen too many people like you.' 'Okay. If you don't want to talk in this place, we'll move to another place.' Then, Section Chief Wang told that Uighur person named Ai to bring over a detention certificate and put it in front of me. At this time, the pain in my chest was so severe that I could not talk anymore. When he saw this, Section Chief Wang went out.

“The Wang who beat me now came over to me and said: 'Lao Tong. We are made of blood and flesh. As long as you answer my questions in a clear way, you may go home.' At this time, the pain in my chest grew worse and worse. I put my hand on the chest and answered his questions word by word. In great pain, I requested many times to go to a hospital for examination, but was denied. Later, when the pain grew so severe that I could no longer answer their questions, I was sent to a private hospital. Wang first went into the doctor's office and came out after giving the doctor some instructions. I went in and did an ECG and then an X-ray film. After that, I was brought back to the vehicle. After waiting for over 40 minutes, Wang went into the hospital and came out very soon. I was brought back to an examination bed in the hospital. The doctor asked: 'Where do you feel pain?' I said: 'The pain is only in this area of the chest and it's severe. There's no pain elsewhere.' When the doctor pressed on the rib of my chest with his two fingers, it was so painful that I perspired all over. At last, the doctor said: 'There's nothing serious. Just some medication will do.' Wang again brought me into the vehicle and returned to the original place on the second floor in the backyard of Bureau of Security. He handwrote all the materials once again.

“By this time, it was so painful that I could no longer sit in the bed. I had to put my hand on the chest and squat on the floor. Then, the section chief Wang came in. When he saw I was squatting on the floor, he ordered me in a yelling voice to stand up. I said: 'I really can't stand up!' Wang said: 'Didn't the doctor see you and say there's nothing wrong?' This time, the Wang who beat me asked the Wang the section chief to go outside where they talked for a while. When they finally came in, they read aloud what they had written down and told me to sign and put my fingerprint on it. They went on to say: 'We didn't have a pleasant talk today. Now that the holiday is around the corner (National Day), you go back and concentrate on your business. If we need something here, we'll give you a ring and ask you to come over.' In this way, I struggled to the gate step by step. The excruciating pain made it impossible for me to walk any further and it was already 8 p.m. in the evening. So I called my wife and asked her to pick me up. She took me to the emergency room of Kashi No. 2 Hospital where they diagnosed my condition as fracture of a rib. This is what I experienced at Bureau of Security.”

The 69 Christians who were arrested and taken to Xishan Local Police Station together with the elderly Lingzhi Xia were roughed up for a whole day. Each Christian's name was coded with a number and was written on a big piece of white paper. The police forced them to hold the white paper with their names and serial numbers in front of their head for photo sessions. Most of the Christians were fined, but they did not give any receipts. This is no different from a robbery. About a dozen of people of faith, including Lingzhi Xia, Li Zhou, Hongxin Zhang, Tumei Ni, Yulian Zhao, Lin Jiang were detained. Among these people, Lingzhi Xia and Li Zhou were orally notified of their three years of sentence of re-education through labor. Tumei Ni were sentenced to two years of re-education through labor. After this brought concerns from the international community, Li Zhou who had been detained and interrogated for 34 days was suddenly released without any paperwork. After 21 days of detention and interrogation, the son of the elderly Lingzhi Xia learned from the police that his mother is a principal criminal shadowed for half a year by the people hired by Ministry of Public Security and that his mother was sentenced to three years of re-education through labor, he died a day later. After this elderly person was released, they collected several thousand yuan from her. The 29-year-old Lin Jiang is the only person among the Christians arrested in this grand round-up who has experienced the torture on the “Tiger's Bench.” He was placed on the tiger's bench and stayed there for almost 30 hours in which the policeman Bin Ma still beat him hard. Only very few Christians who were detained received a penalty document. We saw the reason for Yulian Zhao's penalty by the police is “engaging in illegal Christian missionary work and disrupting public order.”

In our investigation of the environment of worship for the Christians in Xinjiang, we saw once again the disappointing shadows of the police as a social group and their stubborn and unscrupulous brutality that undermines the public order of the society. In our written investigation, we found a fixed pattern that doesn't have a single exception—that is, whenever their interrogation didn't go well during their “interrogation through torture,” or the respondent's answer did not fit the taste of the interrogators, they would use “If you are not honest, we'll sentence you to three years of re-education through labor” as their powerful weapon. We found in this whole investigation that a huge police force exists only for the purpose of suppressing the value of freedom of belief. Year in and year out, brutal arrests, suppression, crackdowns and “interrogating” the Christians are the only work this band of policemen have to do. People in their normal senses can never understand the boredom and shamelessness with which they over and over again interrogate the Christians detained merely because they gathered together and prayed. One can never imagine this is done by a group of adults. In their eye, Christianity has become a cult, which is absurd beyond human understanding. Why do all the orthodox and straight practices become crooked cults in their eye? This is sufficient to show that they are really the evil forces working against human civilization.

My investigation and this investigative report are not only for exposing the dark and brutal power as its evil name of being a brutal and reactionary power has been deeply planted in the heart of most people by its evil conduct over a long period of time. This does not need me to tell with words. What we want to remind people on a constant basis is the danger of continuing to tolerate this anti-humanist power group that slaughters all the positive values—the danger to ourselves—the danger to our beloved sons and daughters. In any country of the world, the belief of the Christians are protected by the state. Only the power in this country cracks down on it in such a brutal way, just like Falun Gong that is legal in over 60 countries of the world but is slandered as a “cult” in China. In a conversation with me, a scholar said with sigh: “Falun Gong has a tribulation of six years, while Christianity has 56 years of tribulation.” In reply to this statement of his, mine is “It is six years of indefatigable fighting by Falun Gong and it is 56 years of meek endurance by Christianity.”

Brutally cracking down on people's freedom of worship results from a habit of resilient thuggery inherent in this system. It was like this in the past and it is also like this today. It will still be like this in the coming days of its existence. It is just the carnivorous nature of the wolves that will exist as long as they live on earth. The recent illegal sentence imposed on Pastor Zhuohua Cai by Beijing authorities is still fresh in people's memory.

It is time for an immediate awakening!

Beijing, December 21, 2005

China Aid Association, established in 2002, is a non-profit Christian organization with a mission to explore the truth, to tell the truth and to preserve the truth on the issue of religious freedom in China, particularly focusing on the fate of the unofficial church.

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