Is There Real Religious Freedom in China?
My name is Liu Shun. I am 66. In November 1986, I believed in the Lord Jesus, and at that time, I just wanted to properly believe in God, and to be a truly good person, thus receiving God’s approval. Every time I assembled with my brothers and sisters to read the scriptures, I felt much enjoyment in my heart. I led an abundant and happy life. But not long after, the government officials began to enforce a restriction on me. Director Guo of the township people’s armed forces departments (one of my “friends”) came to meet me in the village office. Once he saw me, he first asked: “I heard you believe in God? You aren’t engaged in honest work.” I said in reply: “Believing in God is not doing terrible thing. We believers are required to be good and take the right path. How can you say I’m not engaged in honest work?” He angrily said: “Take the right path? You’re just messing around. The CCP doesn’t allow people to believe in God. You yourself are a Communist. Can you believe in God? Are you not afraid of losing your head?” I asked: “Do the national laws not say we have freedom of religion?” With his finger pointing at me, he said: “You are indeed brainless. Freedom of belief is claimed to international countries. If the CCP really allowed you to freely believe in God, who would the CCP lead? I’m talking to you today for your own good. I’m being responsible toward you. If we didn’t have a pretty good relationship, could I tell you these? Instead, I would have already arrested you. Stop believing in God from now on, or you’ll be expelled from the party. You’d better think it over thoroughly.” Hearing his words, I thought: I absolutely cannot give up believing in God. If I’m expelled from the party then I’m expelled from the party; no big deal. Right after that, he asked: “What do you think? Will you continue believing in God?” At this time, I thought: In order to redeem man, the Lord Jesus was nailed to the cross, bleeding to His last dying breath. You ask me to stop believing in Him? No way. The title of party member is nothing special. Compared with this, following the Lord Jesus and walking the path of believing in God is really the right path. So, I said to him: “We humans were created by God, so I ought to believe in Him. If you want to expel me, you can do that.” In this way, I was expelled from the party. In the next several years, the CCP government had never given up persecuting the house churches, and instead their persecution got crazier and crazier.
In June 1990, the CCP government executed a large-scale arrest operation against Christians of the house churches. One noon, the police arrested several dozen believers in three market towns, and then sent those brothers and sisters to the county detention center to interrogate them and extort a confession. Coincidentally, I was just out of town that day, so I escaped unscathed. From then on, I became an “escaping convict” who was listed as wanted and hunted down. Therefore, I, unable to return home, could only hide myself in the houses of my brothers and sisters who were not well-known for their faith. Later, the policemen often came to my home to arrest me, which threw my family into chaos. My family were involved in this and they were on edge all day.
One evening in February, 1991, I indeed missed my old father, so I secretly came back home to meet my 80-something-year-old father. Unexpectedly, after nine o’clock, several policemen broke in. Without another word, one of them kicked me to the floor and then four policemen pinned me, and handcuffed my hands behind my back. At the moment, I heard a policeman whispered: “We have finally caught you. You make us keep watch on your house every day.” After saying that, he dragged me over and pushed me out. My father cried loudly: “Please arrest me. Don’t arrest my son. …” I turned round and just wanted to comfort my father, but the policemen didn’t give me a chance. They just gave me a kick and took me to the township government.
The policemen locked me in a small room with my hands cuffed to opposite ends of a bench. I continually cried out to the Lord in my heart, and owing to His protection, I was not at all afraid. That night, I saw Brother Duan and Brother Wei who were from the same village team were also arrested. The next morning, the police took us to the local police station, and put me into a steel cage which was less than 2 meters long and didn’t give me any food. After eight o’clock, Director Ou turned me loose from the cage, handcuffed me, and took me into the interrogation room, and then they began to interrogate me trying to force me to confess. Two policemen forced me to squat in a seated position and stretch my arms handcuffed level, and then they placed beer bottles behind my knees. When my arms dropped, they kicked my cuffs; when the bottles fell, they kicked me in my legs. After torturing me, a policeman said: “Be honest. Who believes in God with you? Where do those who have escaped live?” At that time, I only had one thought in my mind: Even if they beat me to death, I can’t be Judas, the Lord’s betrayer. Thus, no matter how they forced me, I said: “I don’t know.” They continued to interrogate me until 11 o’clock; seeing that I wouldn’t say anything, they began hitting and kicking me again. Then Director Ou said: “I don’t worry you won’t confess. When in the County Public Security Bureau, you will get what’s coming! Dealing with people like you, we have other means.” Then, they put me into the steel cage again. At that time, my legs couldn’t move and suffered unbearable pain because of their beatings. But once I thought our Lord had undergone the suffering I was undergoing now and that I should follow the path the Lord had walked, I had strength and determined I wouldn’t be a Judas, the Lord’s betrayer. The next day around midday, Director Ou pulled me out of the cage, bound my hands behind me with ropes and pushed me into the car to the County Public Security Bureau.
On entering the gate of the County Public Security Bureau, Director Ou said: “You are an escaping convict. If you still don’t confess, we’ll see how you feel in a bit!” With that, he began punching and kicking me. Afterward, he dragged me over, forced me to sign a false confession statement, and then sent me to the detention center. When I arrived there, the prisoners had eaten dinner, so I had to go hungry. Besides, because the prison guards incited the prisoners to ill-treat me, those prisoners immediately beat me up, and then they forced me to take a cold bath and made me sleep next to the urinal. After experiencing their beatings and torment, I was not only hungry and cold but also in unbearable pain from head to foot, lying on the floor motionless. At this very moment, I felt bitter hatred for these policemen: They don’t arrest those thieves and robbers, and murderers and arsonists. Instead, they arrest, persecute and beat up innocent, unarmed Christians. The people’s police are for the people? Actually, they are a gang of devils who kill man without blinking an eye. In pain, I unceasingly prayed to the Lord in my heart: “Lord! Please give me confidence and strength. I’m willing to walk the path You have walked, suffer the pain You have suffered and follow You to the end. I won’t be a disgraceful Judas …” After praying, I thought of the Lord’s words: “And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10:28). I realized: Even though the policemen kill me today, they can’t destroy my spirit because my spirit is in God’s hands. Without the Lord’s permission, even if they try to kill me, they won’t succeed. As long as I have a breath in my body, I can’t sell out my brothers and sisters. When I started to think this way, my heart was full of confidence and strength given by the Lord.
At 8 o’clock the next morning, Chief Li of the Political Protection Section of the County Public Security Bureau and two policemen took me to the interrogation room of the detention center. When seeing them, I felt a little fear and thought: How will they beat me and crack down on me? Then I prayed to the Lord: “Lord! Please give me strength, and protect my heart.” After the prayer, it occurred to me that the Lord Jesus once said we must undergo the suffering He had undergone, and drink from the bitter cup He had drunk from, and that we should put the cross upon our back and follow Him. So I resolved in secret: No matter how they torment me, and no matter what cruel torture they use to force me to sell out the benefit of the church and my brothers and sisters, I will firmly stand at the Lord’s side. I absolutely will not betray Him. In the interrogation room, I squatted against the wall in handcuffs. Then the policemen asked me to squat in a seated position again, and placed two beer bottles behind my knees and asked me to clamp them. When the bottles fell or my arms dropped, they beat and kicked me. Only when my legs were so hurt that I couldn’t stand did Chief Li begin interrogating me: “Do you know your believing in God is illegal?” I said: “I don’t know. I only know believing in God is a right path. The national laws stipulate that citizens have freedom of religion. How can you say we break the law?” Chief Li said: “Is this ‘freedom’ spoken to you? It’s spoken to foreigners and the international community. Don’t forget, the CCP doesn’t believe there is a God. Can it allow you to freely believe in God? If you really want to believe in God, you can believe in grant churches and submit to whatever our country arranges. As long as you obey our country’s policies, the government will temporarily allow you to believe in God.” Hearing this, my heart whispered: The Three-Self Church is firmly controlled by you. You make believers all listen to you and don’t allow them to evangelize. Is that believing in God? Is that not believing in the Communist Party? Thinking of this, I ignored him. Seeing I wouldn’t speak, Chief Li hypocritically asked me: “You have been thirty or forty years old. Why do you believe in God?” I told him: “God created man, and He asks man to be good, righteous, and honest, love others as himself, not curse others and not steal or rob. Isn’t it a good thing to believe in God this way? Why is being a good person condemned as an illegal thing?” Chief Li said: “No matter how well you conduct, no matter what a good person you are, as long as the CCP doesn’t allow you to continue believing in God, you have to stay at home and plant the fields on the 2 mu of land and you won’t go hungry.” I said: “If God doesn’t give us a year of favorable weather for our crops, we’ll starve to death.” At my words, Chief Li yelled exasperatedly: “Too stubborn! I know you are a leader in your church. How many people are there in your church? After you are arrested, who is in charge of the church now?” I prayed to the Lord in my heart, and reminded myself: Don’t say anything. I would rather die than betray the Lord like Judas. So, I firmly said: “I don’t know.” Chief Li angrily cursed me: “Damn it! If I don’t teach you a lesson, you won’t know who I am.” While speaking, he came before me, and then severely kicked me and slapped me across the face a few more times, causing my mouth to bleed at once. Then with his hand striking the false materials on the table that they had prepared before, he said: “Even if you don’t say anything, the result isn’t up to you. Merely by these materials, we can get you sentenced to several years.” Finally, he ordered two policemen to pull me before the table, and force my hand print onto those materials. Then they sent me back to the detention center.
I lived an inhuman life there. My breakfast and supper both were a spoon of congee, and my lunch was a spoon of rice, which caused me to be so hungry that I had to walk by leaning on the wall for support. In this way, I endured the better part of a year. In February 1992, the Municipal Intermediate People’s Court held a trial for a co-worker and me, and pronounced that we believed in religion illegally. The chief judge asked whether we had something to say. I said angrily: “We just believe in God, read the Bible and sing hymns. We do nothing illegal. You’re throwing out wild accusations. I have never thought the Chinese government’s words proclaim ‘freedom of religion,’ but today you rule that our believing in religion is illegal. As such, ‘freedom of religion’ in Chinese laws is actually a deceptive lie!” The chief judge said: “You should know the policy of ‘freedom of religion’ is put there for foreigners to see. China simply doesn’t allow believing in God. This is established by the Central Committee. If you want to seek justice, you should reason with the Central Committee.” In this way, they forcibly pronounced our sentence and I was sentenced to 4 years.
In prison with high walls and electric fences, I lived a life less than human every day: I completely lost freedom. Day and night, I worked for them for free and when I didn’t complete my task, I must work overtime. In addition, they kept a stricter guard on me, a “political prisoner”: They forbade me to speak and come into contact with others. I could only pray to the Lord in my heart. Thank God for His enlightenment. After praying, I thought of the Lord’s words, “Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you” (Mat 5:10–12). Pondering these words, I realized I suffered these hardships in prison because of my belief in God, which was praised by the Lord, and that the police hated me for they hated the Lord. Though my physical body suffered, my heart felt steadfast because I was walking the rocky path the Lord had walked, and I was suffering with Him. So I had confidence to face four years’ imprisonment.
In February 1995, I came out of prison. Having experienced many years of pursuit of the CCP government and four years’ imprisonment, I saw clearly that Chinese government is a cheat that builds up its name by deceiving the public. Facing various international countries, it proclaims that Chinese citizens have freedom of religion, but in the land of China, they really persecute and arrest us Christians without restraint, and it fantasized that, one day, it could eliminate all the believers in one fell swoop and ban all religious beliefs. However, the more government’s persecution and arrest we experience, the greater our confidence in following the Lord becomes, and also we gain some discernment. This is the fruit borne of the Lord’s words. Furthermore, this experience has also solidified my confidence in following the Lord all my life.
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