Editor’s Note: Miss Wang Shuanyan is the pastor of Beijing’s Xinshu (New Tree) Church, one of the hundreds of thousands of illegal “house churches” throughout China. Although she usually avoids the public spotlight, she has stepped forward to support Beijing’s 1,000-member Shouwang Church, which has been prevented from meeting for 21 Sundays in a row now.
She has attempted to join their outdoor worship and has been arrested a number of times because of that. She was also invited to attend Lausanne World Evangelical Conference in October of 2011 in South Africa, but was stopped by Chinese police and prevented from boarding the plane.
She is also one of the seventeen Chinese signators, on be half of Shouwang Church, of “We Stand Up for Our Faith: A Petition to the National People’s Congress Concerning the Conflict Between Church and State” that was delivered on May 10, 2011.
In the following excerpt of her account smuggled out of China, she describes her attempt on August 14 to worship with the Shouwang Church.
The government has prevented the congregation from taking possession of property it purchased $4 million — and now is detaining any worshipers who show up at a designated park for Sunday outdoor services.
She describes reaching the 3rd floor outdoor platform of a park — the designated worship area — and being excited that she had almost eluded police. However, she was then taken into custody, as she describes here:
by Pastor Wang Shuanyan
special to Beliefnet
August 14 was the 19th Sunday for Shouwang’s outdoor worship and I went all the way to the 3-floor platform of Zhonggang Building.
Reaching this place was already a great blessing from God. Last time, when I just arrived at the bottom of the platform, I was taken away by the guards from Fengtai District. This time, I started early and on my way there I miraculously met a sister from Shouwang and she took me on a mysterious road and in this way, we got all the way to the third floor.
First of all, I looked around at the beautiful surroundings: green grass, fresh flowers, flowing water.
Then, the two of us began our worship. According to Shouwang’s Sunday schedule, we began to read passages from the Scripture, sing hymns, read chapters and listen to the sermon [which was recorded]. I also added a prayer. Halfway through the sermon, two people came to interfere with our service. I looked at the watch and it was not yet 7:15 a.m.
I said: “Don’t you usually clear the area at 7:30 a.m.? Please let us finish the sermon. They temporarily stepped aside and a DSPS (Domestic Security Protection Squad) agent from Changping District came over and took us off the platform.
He made that sister get on a vehicle bound for Changping District, but I told him I am not from Changping District.
Since he didn’t know how to make arrangements for me, he simply made me wait in the big bus the police from Haidian District borrowed.
Since I persisted in not telling them where I reside, they said at first to bring people from all police stations to identify me. At last, they had to take me to Zhongguancun Boulevard Police Station in a sedan.
At 7:40 a.m., I arrived at Zhongguancun Boulevard Police Station and did a simple written record, but I still refused to tell them my residential area.
After that, some brothers and sisters of Shouwang [who had also gathered in the park] were taken in [for interrogation] one by one.
The DSPS agents wanted to confiscate our cell phones and I wouldn’t give them mine and told them the cell phone was in the pocket of my trousers and that if he must have it, he can come and take it himself. He left in helplessness and anger.
I also feel a little ashamed of such a way of dealing with them, but I must protect my cell phone. Local police had already threatened me that if I persisted in coming to the meeting area, I would be locked up for 48 hours.
Therefore, I was psychologically prepared for this and I had prepared a sleeping bag for this.
However, the feeling he showed while telling me this brought pain to my soul.
I had brought him trouble. He had an opportunity to take revenge on me. However, [he did not].
They were generally nice to me.
[In an earlier arrest], they brought some Zongzi (Chinese puddings) to me and sometimes invited me to movies and meals.
Though I have declined all of them, I feel grateful deep in my heart.
However, I also know it was this same group of people who ordered other people to rough me up and [who] injured my arms and back and placed me on house arrest in a mountain.
I tried to understand that they were doing their duty.
Yet, many of the things they’ve done are violations of the law; I also tried to understand that they have orders from their superiors. They have to do what they are doing. Yet, I remember that at the Nuremburg Tribunal, former Nazi soldiers defended themselves by arguing that they were simply taking orders from their superiors. They were still convicted.
Therefore, I must persist in my actions.
What is more important than doing a great thing is to do the right thing.
At around 2 p.m., a sister from Xinshu was trying to deliver lunch to me and was rejected. After repeated attempts, she finally had three pieces of snack and two bottles of water brought in. As I had not had any food since breakfast at 5a.m., I indeed felt hungry and dizzy too.
But by then I had decided to go on a hunger strike.
Was I on fasting, or on a hunger strike? To me, it was both. To God, I prayed earnestly. To the relevant authorities, I was protesting with my hunger strike against the repeatedly occurring violence. Initially I didn’t take a couple of days’ fasting too serious. But I miscalculated my physical strength. Over more than four months’ exhaustion, my body became weakened daily. During this fasting, the hardest thing to conquer was not starvation, but dizziness.
To my surprise, after I started the hunger strike, not only the DSPS agents paid me several visits, but leaders from the Sub-District Office, the Ethnic, Religious and Overseas Chinese Affairs Office, and the District Government — one after the other.
I admit that my initial intention of doing so was to attract their attention. But I actually didn’t expect them to pay real attention as I know very well how insignificant I am.
What do I protest against?
I protest against the abuse of power; I protest against the destruction of human relationships; I protest against one’s personal interest being held over conscience; I protest against unrighteousness and the lack of mercies; I protest against the trampling and disregard of a human being’s dignity and rights.
I’ve tried my best to seek guidance through prayers and my conscience.
To those who don’t agree, I sincerely ask for your tolerance. May God let us know which path we should take, because this is a road that we have never traveled by.