Letter to Harper - China

Posted by Shawn on March 27, 2012

Dear Prime Minister Harper:

I am a Canadian citizen who is concerned about human rights abuses in China. The Chinese government has made life difficult for Christians who want to worship God freely in house churches.

Pastors of some Chinese house churches must give weekly reports disclosing their location and meeting attendance. If a pastor plans to leave his city, he must report his travel plans and he is restricted to short trips.  Recently the Chinese government harassed Beijing's 1000-member Shouwang Church. On April 10, 2011, the Church held an outdoor public meeting and security officers arrested 160 worshippers. Two weeks later, they prevented worshippers from gathering for an Easter Sunday service. There are many Chinese Christians in jail for practising their faith. On September 13, 2009, 400 government officials, together with hired thugs, raided the Fushan Church's property and demolished over a dozen buildings. The raid saw twenty believers seriously injured and later Christians who reported on the incident were detained. Because of the negative attention Chinese officials did agree to pay some damages to the Linfen Church. However, when they refused to release the detained the Church refused the money. Pastor Yang Rongli, and six others were arrested with more arrests later. It was ruled that the five pastors were guilty of occupying farm land illegally and disturbing the traffic order.  Pastor Yang Rongli and Pastor Wang Xiaoguang are still detained. Rongli is due to be released in 2017. These are only a few examples of China's mistreatment of Christian believers. Aiqing Zhu was arrested for “illegal evangelistic activities” and on June 9, 1996, was sentenced to 20 years in prison. Journalist, Li Ying, originally sentenced to death, is serving a fifteen-year sentence for participating in the publication of a Christian magazine. She is not permitted a Bible and she works 15-hour days. In 2002, Mr. Hu Ying and Xu Fuming, church leaders, were sentenced to life in prison. In 2002, Chi Famin was given a ten-year sentence for simply church membership. Pastor Zhang Rongliang was given a seven-and-a-half-year sentence in 2004, after already serving twelve years in prison for his faith spread over five separate detentions. He has endured torture which has included electric shocks. In January of 2008, Alimujiang Yimiti was arrested and accused of endangering national security and subverting the national government, a felony punishable by death in China. Because of insufficient evidence, he was given a 15-year sentence. These are a few of the many cases of Christians who have been unjustly arrested and remain detained, simply for practising their faith. 

You, Prime Minister Harper, took a strong stand on human rights and called for the Chinese government to make changes. The Conservative government accused China of commercial espionage and openly criticized China for its human rights abuses. You did not attend the opening ceremonies of the Olympics held in Beijing. However, economic pressure has resulted in Canada, once again, partnering with China economically. Since 2003, China has been Canada's second-largest trading partner.

Heavy-handed oppression from the communist government of China upon Christian believers calls for a response of empathy for this vulnerable minority. Such convictions are unfair and cruel. They are intended to sever relationships, demean one's dignity, inflict shame and crush the believer's sense of hope. They intend to make miserable the innocent lives of public Christians.

Other Chinese Christians who are imprisoned for their faith and need our advocacy are Zhong Chen (arrested in 2000 for “illegal evangelistic activities and disturbing social safety”), Wang Zhaomin (imprisoned 1999), Xiao Yanli (imprisoned 2002 for 10 years), Gong Bangkun (imprisoned 2002 for 15 years), Yi Chuanfu (imprisoned in 2002 for 10years), Dong Daolai (imprisoned in 2002 for 10 years), Sung Minghua (charged with organizing a cult, sentenced to life in 2001, reduced sentence of 12 years), Kim Kyungil (imprisoned in 2002, North Korean Christian who was caught working in a Chinese Christian safe-house. Imprisoned in China, he faces being sent back to North Korea where he will likely be executed), Yang Huamei (arrested in the raid of the Fushan Church, sentenced in 2009 for 4 years ) and Cui Yiaxing (arrested in the raid of the Fushan Church,sentenced in 2009 to 5.5 years).

What can the Canadian government do for suffering Christians in its relationship with China? There is much that can be done. Canadian diplomats can confront Chinese authorities on specific cases of human rights abuse, including the imprisonment of Christians mentioned above. The government can apply different types of sanctions to show that it is serious about seeing China change. Sports sanctions would prevent the sports teams of our countries from competing in international events. Diplomatic sanctions may include the limitation or cancellation of high-level government visits or the expelling of diplomatic staff. Economic sanctions can come in the form of tariffs, import duties, trade barriers and import or export quotas. Each of these measures can be applied to governments like China in varying and progressive degrees. Please show that Canada is serious about human rights and that we expect this value to be shared by other nations that we do business with.

Respectfully and sincerely,
Shawn and Ramona Stevens.

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