The following has been smuggled out of China, past what is called the “Great Firewall of China,” which the Communist Chinese government uses to block e-mail, Facebook, Twitter and other communications between its citizens and the rest of the world.
It is the first-person account of a young professional woman who was arrested last week as part of the crackdown against the 1,000-member Shouwang church in Beijing which refuses to register with the government.
She does not reveal her name. But here is her account of being held for 48 hours, during which she was pressured to sign a letter denouncing her church.
All links to related stories in blue are from Beliefnet editors. In black type, we offer her account, in her own words:
Next Sunday is about to arrive, and I have yet to share fully what happened last Sunday. I have to testify about the Lord’s amazing grace.
During my stay at the police station I was made to wait on the sofa in the interrogation room. I was allowed to read, nap, drink water and they even granted my wish for vegetarian buns.
I was allowed to read the Scriptures out loud, sing hymns and even maintain contacts through my cell phone. As time passed the tactic was changed to isolation, perhaps they felt that I was showing no signs of bending. Even so they only took the battery from my cell phone.
The most painful thing is the second hand smoke – all the police and security personnel smoked incessantly. I am extremely sensitive to and hate the smell of tobacco. I felt that all of my pores reeked of smoke as freedom was granted to me. But overall I was treated well.
Really, during this time I was not like someone who has lost their freedom. Even the police and security personnel asked their superior officers why they were asked to watch over me.
Yes, over the hours their objective was to make me sign the guarantee letter through lies or intimidation. Even though throughout this time I remained humorous and joked with them, and they responded with compliments and expressed care and concern. I know that this is true spiritual battle. What we stand for is indeed like night and day. Yes they treated me well, and continue to say we believe your faith is pure, you are not a criminal.
Yet I was still detained.
I am recording the interactions between myself and the police as a drama. God is indeed the script writer, director and producer.
Scene one: Sunday afternoon
Just transferred to the station in charge of the area where I reside. Two police officers, one male and one female questioned me and took notes. They could not produce written charges against Shouwang Church being illegal, but continued to maintain that our mode of outdoor worship is not right.
They even counseled that I should consider changing to worship at an official church during this sensitive time. The focus at this time was not on the guarantee letter, but that I should worship at a Three-Self (official) church”
“We are not trying to make you give up your faith. Christianity is a state approved religion. We just want you to worship at an official, state approved church. It is close to where you live. They are all Christian churches, why do you insist on going to a place far away? We often go to the official church and chat with the pastors. They are very good, and graduated from seminary.”
I felt like the judge who was executed by Henry the VIII for his unwillingness to submit and swear falsely. But perhaps I should change my approach (tone) as we discuss the difference between Three-Self and house churches.
“Perhaps it is easier for you to understand if I put it this way – it is like falling in love. Your dad and mom introduced a man to you, but you just do not like him.”
The police officers laughed.
“The Three-Self church pastors are like you, just performing different jobs. They are paid by the government.”
I told them I have been to Three-Self church and was almost baptized there. But there is this feeling of incorrectness. And how finally I understood the problem lies with separation of church and state. The police officers seemed surprised to realize that Three-Self church pastors are paid by the government.
Scene two: Monday morning
A middle-aged handsome and tall officer appeared. He is obviously aware of his magnetism and is trying to use his charm. He sat next to me on the sofa, fixed his gaze upon my eyes, lowered his voice and called me “little sister”:
“I am not speaking to you as a policeman. I will change into street clothes if that will put you at ease. Please trust me, I am looking out for your own good. My objective is for both of us to return home. What I am about to tell me I should not say as a policeman …I have a compromise for you.”
I recalled the pastoral letter from Pastor Tian Ming mentioning: Satan, get behind me.
So I responded in a normal volume:
“Officer Yu, I am sorry as I might have misled you. Please do not fantasize about me if I have been smiling at you. I will not sign any guarantee letter. You do not have to give me any exception. I know your ultimate objective is for me to sign the guarantee letter. My bottom line is I will not sign. You can be faithful to your job and I will be faithful to my call. Do not offer to do anything out of the ordinary for me. And please do not harbor any thoughts about me. If your rule is to detain me for 24hrs or 48hrs or life imprisonment then so be it. Even if you draw you gun and shoot me now, I will not change.”
“Mrs. Wang, I am not speaking to you as a policeman, I am…”
“Officer, if you are not a policeman then I do not have to stay here and talk to you. I am not responding this way because I harbor enmity towards you as a policeman. Even if you were my father I would have responded the same. Do not harbor any fantasy about me.”
(Throughout the process I have tried to be gentle, calm and sincere in demeanor; with an occasional movement of my eyebrows as well as expressions of deep thought.)
Note: For those who are thinking that I am torturing the police please know that this same man who is now calling himself my big brother acted differently the night before. When we first met he scolded me sternly when I remained silent by saying:
“You have no right to remain silent! That is a Western thing. You are in China!”
“I just signed the questionnaire form. It is in black and white, if that was wrong, please correct it for me.”
Scene three: Monday evening
I am no longer concerned over my food and lodgings. The female police officers are truly interested in me and concerned. They are puzzled and surprised by my responses. They seemed to respect me and perhaps even envious.
(I maintain my daily habit of reading out loud the Scriptures in Chinese and English. When they heard this they all asked to learn English from me).
(Clear conscience before God): Of course we need to love them (the police) but we need also to give up our fantasy over these policemen who persecute us. What I mean is that we need to relinquish any fantasy over the political and spiritual power behind them - the eternal plan of the Devil remains to destroy us and to claim our souls.
I spend much time talking with the female officers and ask about the issues that they have to deal with.
We discussed the rising problems with the sex trade and prostitution. The police women work hard, often their children do not know when mom will come home at night. She asked why I refuse to sign the guarantee letter. I was suddenly moved to share with them the testimony of Brother Wu, how he lost both his home and job Sunday. They listened silently.
We continued till dawn.
Scene four: Tuesday morning
Almost 48 hours now. The station chief paid me a visit. He was well built, with piercing eyes and is a character right out of a police-robber movie. He said:
“Mrs. Wang, no, Ms. Wang, you are young and not married. How have you been these past few days?”
I sat up straight and smiled from my heart:
“Good, I am fine. Thank you.”
At this his face brightened. I continued to smile but said seriously:
“Truly, I am fine. I appreciate the respect and concern that I have received. My treatment has been much better than expected. Actually you could have treated me badly and I would not mind.”
The station chief changed the topic:
“Last night I chatted with your Deacon Wang Liang, he is a nice man. We had good communications, he said several of your sisters have signed letters of guarantee.”
Of course I knew Deacon Wang would not have said such things, but rather than doubting I said:
“Chief, you do not understand. This has been my decision from the beginning, it does not matter whether my brothers and sisters have signed letters of guarantee, even if my pastor and the whole world did so I would not do so.”
“Ms. Wang, I feel you are a kind person, but you have a short coming – you are selfish. Even if you are not concerned about yourself, you are Chinese and should think about your parents. You should reconsider.”
“Chief, I have considered this. If I have hurt my parent’s feelings I can buy 2 bottles of wine for my father and 2 outfits for my mother. I can apologize to them when I return home. But if I offend my heavenly Father and bring shame to His name, what can I give Him? What does God need from me? He wants belief from the heart and witness from the mouth.”
The chief frowned and spoke with sincerity:
“I do not understand. If you remain so, we police will have to look you up continuously. Are you not bothered? Is this a good thing? Frankly, if you signed this letter of guarantee we will no longer bother you. You will regain your freedom, and no one needs to know you have signed it.”
“Chief, before I met you all I did consider being hounded by police as something terrible and frightful. But now that I have made contact with you all, I think you are all lovable people and it is not such a bad thing to be arrested by you.”
I smiled truthfully and continued:
“I am not concerned over other church members finding out whether I signed. Even if nobody knows, my God and I know. If I signed and you no longer looked for me, my conscience will hound me. It will be harsher to me than you. At least you allow me to sleep and eat, I am frightened that my conscience will not let me sleep or eat. I am not brave, I am scared of the police. But I fear more my God who has mastery over my conscience.”
At this the station chief departed.
I want to thank my brothers and sisters, who with tears and fasting prayed for me. And then there are those who came to the station and watched over me outside, those who comforted me. Your love destroyed my dreams of being a lone warrior, I am not by myself.
Philippians 1:12-14. “Now I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel. As a result, it has become clear throughout the palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ. Because of my chains, most of the brothers in the Lord have been encouraged to speak the word of God more courageously and fearlessly.”
As I read the Scriptures I read to myself, and to those who were watching over me, and to the other girl arrested for shoplifting on Monday night.
As I read the Bible and sang hymns she started to cry.
She told me that her husband is having an affair and the other woman has given birth. He is asking for a divorce. She considered suicide but could not carry through and her shoplifting was an attempt to get her husband’s attention. I prayed for her, and as she was being taken away she said she would contact me when she is released.
Many other events took place in these 48hrs and the Lord has done many other things during the same period.
My pen is insufficient to record all.