Wednesday, August 31, 2011
This Is The Road We Have Never Traveled
Editor's Note: Miss Wang Shuanyan is the pastor of Beijing NewTree (Xinshu) Church. She publically supports and joins the outdoor worship of Beijing Shouwang Church though being detained a number of times because of that.
She was invited to attend Lausanne World Evangelical Conference in Oct of 2011 in South Africa but stopped by secret police with violence in Beijing on Oct. 13, 2011. 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 on May 10th of 2011.
---Wang Shuangyan 08/17/2011
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 this 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 (I also added a prayer). Half way 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 that Shouwang sister and me off the platform. He made that sister get on a vehicle bound for Changping District and 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. (Before this Sunday, people like me were accepted by Haidian Town Police Station. This time, they have moved their base camp). Later, I heard from the DSPS agent of Fengtai District that he arrived at 7:30 and it was a pity that I had already been taken away. He was a little upset that I arrived too early... 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 were taken in 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. Before this date, the locality police had already threatened me that as long as I go there, I would certainly be locked for 48 hours. If I lose contact with the outside world, my family and brothers and sisters would certainly worry a lot about me and I must try my best to keep a way of contact with the outside world.
It was not difficult for them to find out my place of residence. Pretty soon, a person from Dongtieying Police Station in Fengtai District came to pick me up. After I arrived there, the locality police officer in charge of me told me I would be detained for 48 hours and wouldn’t be released until the third day. Before that, he had already warned me of this. Before the last time he warned me, he had already warned me once.
Therefore, I was psychologically prepared for this and I had prepared a sleeping bag for this. However, the feeling of complacence he showed while telling me this brought a smack of pains to my soul. I have brought some troubles to his work and at last he had an opportunity to take revenge on me. However, I have always hoped that the relationship between us is not that of revenge as we didn’t have problems with each other before.
Since Lausanne Incident, I have been dealing with these government agencies more and more frequently. When an abstract government turns into physical persons you have to deal with, my feelings for them are quite mixed. During this outdoor worship incident, they were generally nice to me. During the Dragon Boat Festival, they brought some Zongzi (Chinese puddings) to me and sometimes invited me to movies and meals, etc. Though I have declined all of them, I feel grateful deep in my heart. However, I also know that during the Lausanne Incident, it was this same group of people who ordered other people to roughen me up and injured my arms and back and even placed me on house arrest in a mountain. I tried to understand them that they were doing these as part of their public duties. Yet, many of the things they’ve done are violations of the law; I also tried to understand them that they have orders from their superiors and they have to do what they are doing. Besides, they often explain their actions this way. Yet, I dimly remember that at the Nuremburg Tribunal, some former Nazi soldiers defended themselves by arguing that they were simply taking orders from their superiors and yet they were still convicted of the crimes for the reason they violated humanitarianism and conscience. Therefore, I can’t agree with some of the things they have done, but I am aware of their limitations just as I am aware of my own limitations. Therefore, it is better for me to coordinate with them as much as I can. Usually upon their indication that they need to fulfill an order from their superior, I would always cooperate to receive their lecture. Even when things were taken to extremes like coming to ring my door bell at 1 a.m. on Sunday morning, I still put up with it by talking to them; after being told by the locality police in charge of me that my outdoor worship on the small holiday of “May Day” interrupted his vacation with his wife, I later wouldn’t, without letting him know, have the heart of going on a trip during small holidays anymore, but would rather choose to go at ordinary weekends. None of us is the kind that wants to cause each other trouble, and by human nature we usually dislikes conflicts or tension.
Why the relationship between us is like what it is has brought entanglement and pain to my feelings. However, I must persist in my actions, because I believe deeply that all things considered, being it’s the God’s guidance or the universal truth; being perceived historically or currently, Shouwang’s outdoor worship done this time and this way is right. As Pastor Jin Mingri has mentioned in the article “The Duty That Is More Valuable than Life,” what is more important than doing a great thing is to do the right thing.
At around 2 p.m. in the afternoon, 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. on that early morning, I indeed felt hungry in the afternoon and dizzy too. But by then I had decided to go on a hunger strike. In fact, having a meal delivery rejected is not a big deal. Perhaps it is also true that a police station may indeed have certain rules for food delivery.
However, this incident triggered the explosion of the numerous events that have been brewing. They can be tracked all the way from these past four months, in which brothers and sisters have been receiving various unjust treatments, to the most recent occurrence on that day: when I was being held at Zhongguancun Boulevard Police Station, a cop from Ganjiakou Police Station along with two security guards were taking away a Shouwang sister by force. As that sister had previously experienced physical brutality when intercepted, she was reluctant to follow them back home. I saw with my own eyes the hands of the guard grabbing fiercely that sister’s shoulder; and before that, the grin of the locality police hinted his complacence and revenge; and, I heard a brother visiting the detainees was also detained…. Determination has thus added up under infliction and concentrated bit by bit. The breakout of a single incident is never triggered simply by the event itself. It took various events to finally form in my heart a strong loud voice: I protest! I call for the stop to all the unrighteous conduct!
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. Other than little moments of being asleep, what I had to battle with day and night was dizziness, the unbearable miserable dizziness. The kind treatment I had from the police station was that they provided me a bench in the middle of the night (the sleeping bag brought by myself proved unsuitable for using on the floor). In the next two days, I stayed lying on the bench most of the time and rarely sat up.
To my surprise, after I started the hunger strike, not only the DSPS agents have paid me several visits, but leaders from the Sub-District Office, the Ethnic, Religious and Overseas Chinese Affairs Office, and the District Government have also shown up 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. I didn’t put much hope in achieving results, but only focused on what I could do. Before this, I had been disagreeing with Gandhi’s hunger strike approach, regarding it as his way of threatening others at the expense of his life. Now, when it came to my turn, I then realized this was the only thing I could do. Formerly, I went onto the platform, talked with government authorities and petitioned the People’s Congress…. Now with conflicts lasting and violence rising, to a weak, insignificant and detained person like me, hunger strike under the circumstances has become the only means by which I could express my protest.
Then, what is the use of doing so? Can it be an unnecessary sacrifice? Professor He Guanghu writes in the Preface of “D. Bonhoeffer”, “These are the questions on countless people’s mind, deemed as ‘normal’ thoughts, especially on the mind of the vast majority of the Chinese. In my opinion, such mentality harbors the very roots of the psychological disease of our current society and is a major ‘heart monster’ obstructing our social reforms.
Pastor Jin Tianming also states in the essay “This Is Evil”, “Being the ones blessed with the way of truth, we must make the prophetic voice of truth to illuminate this dark and evil world, so that the people of this world can get close to Jesus Christ, the light of truth for eternal life. As the Bible says,
“Find out what pleases the Lord. Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. It is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret. But everything exposed by the light becomes visible—and everything that is illuminated becomes a light…” (Ephesians 5: 10-13)
“Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment.” (James 2: 13-14)
The Church needs us to apply to this world what we believe and the messages of eternal truth spread in the Church, let this world hear the prophetic voice of the truth, shine light on this world so that they know Jesus Christ, and bring God’s righteousness and love into this world so that they become the guidance and blessing to this world.”
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 recall that after I was detained for 48 hours last time, I finally had an opportunity to wash my face before being released. A janitor waiting to clean her mop was held up by me for only a little bit time and she said in all impatience, “You’ve already got here. What’s the need of a clean face?” I responded out of instinct, “Though I’m here, I’m not a criminal. Why can I not wash my face?” As soon as I finished my reply, my heart was jumping with fear. It was not because she had such a disrespect for human rights, but also because I discovered the habitual consciousness of denial of human rights that I have been indoctrinated with. Why can’t a criminal wash her face? Why did I announce my right of washing face by arguing that I am no criminal? Isn’t this the universal cognitive abilities in people’s heads? Is this our cultural and habitual way of thinking? This event has both increased and deepened my consciousness of our national crisis, meanwhile also strengthening my passionate hope for the faith to become the backbone as well as the soul of this people.
It’s widely believed that the government has shown relative toleration and restraint towards Shouwang’s outdoor worship this time. In fact, the idea of toleration, only concluded after being compared to the extreme practice, is not at the level of righteousness, truth and law. As for the unrighteous and illegal behavior, all have got used to it and do not mind so much anymore. But sometimes, it would lead to cooperation and connivance at unrighteousness. I indicated to the authorities who came to visit me: over the past four months, the pastors of Shouwang Church were blocked in for long periods and lost their freedom of action. The worshippers were also blocked at weekends or during the week which has affected their normal routine of work and life; some worshippers faced threats by the police and neighborhood authorities, some received pressure from their employers, some were expelled, some were deported back to their native places, some were victims of physical conflicts, so on and so forth. Sunday worship at Xinshu Church was also severely disrupted by the police. On every Sunday, police officers are present outside and they would sometimes enter the room, sometimes request to check a worshipper’s identifications. The Xinshu worshippers also experienced blockade, threats and pressure from their work units. All such practices have gone way beyond the functions and powers of the government authorities. I don’t think it is legal for a police station to have the right to detain people for 24 hours or 48 hours that it assumes to have. For four continuous months, very few written records and investigation were taken of the detainees involved in alleged crimes. Its primary purpose is to create psychological pressure through punishment on the believers who attend the outdoor worship service. To those who have experienced the detention, the 24-hour or 48-hour lockup experience feels awfully long when spent in the bare interrogation room, on the very plain food brought in. Such way of detention not only violates a citizen’s right of freedom, but also inflicts physical abuse to a human body. I would not cooperate with such illegal, unrighteous and unmerciful way of treatment. I not only went on a hunger strike, but also refused to let records be taken of me in writing so that I got to keep my right of silence (I have this right by the law). I call on the government to actively resolve the Shouwang Incident and stop all illegal violent conduct to prevent aggravation of conflicts.
I also have mixed feelings on the way the police station treated me. They were very concerned about my health, even showing care. During the hunger strike, I was relatively afraid of coldness, so I stayed inside the sleeping bag covered in addition by a cotton-padded coat delivered by a sister. Because of this, they didn’t even allow the accompanying guard to turn on the air conditioner. I felt sorry for those guards that it must have been awfully hard on them in the high summer heat. Someone wanting to take away a chair used by me as pillow was prohibited as no one was allowed to move the things that were provided to me; the head of the police station also bought me nutrition drinks and bread and took the trouble of earnestly persuading me to eat some of the food. However, they insisted on not releasing before the 48 hours was due. This was what they never changed. For my part, I continued to fight the non-stop dizziness and patiently waited for the time when they would believe they had exhausted their assumed rights.
On the morning of the 16th, they intended to release me, but I rejected them. I insisted that they had broken the law by detaining worshippers weekly, especially the 48-hour detention which I regard as an act of violence. Even though they insisted that they have this right, they don’t have to exhaust the use of such a power. I request that even if the religious issue cannot be resolved instantly, it is necessary to terminate the illegal violence practiced over the past four months. I would not cooperate with their conduct of arresting or releasing people at their own will. I believe that evil deeds need to be resisted and its abuse should not be tolerated. Perhaps resistance won’t achieve any significant influence. But resistance represents an attitude, a stance and holding to one’s inner faith.
Again the DSPS agents came, so did their boss. They delivered me a great deal of threats such as detaining me on the suspicion of disrupting public duty. Due to my dizziness, I had kept my head down. Yet, at this point I raised my head, looked straight into his eyes and calmly told them “Detain me then.” Both of them took off in fury. I heard as they passed through the lobby, they scolded the brothers and sisters waiting there.
One of their harsh methods was to withdraw the bench given to me where I had attached my body in the previous two days and nights. I again over estimated my physical strength. A few hours after turning down my release, I was too dizzy to sit up. I felt I would pass out but I didn’t. That kind of feeling was indeed unbearable. Another reason is that I was unwilling to reach the point of being detained. I was aware of the fact that it would be hard for Fengtai District to escalate the Shouwang Incident. The way the detention was handled mostly was just empty threats. Though I know the hardship of the detention when facing threats, I still accepted the challenge calmly. In my heart however, I was reluctant to take things to the detention point. The main reason for this is because I did not want to tie a dead knot to it. At least by this time the authorities have not declared the nature and classification of Shouwang Incident, and I was unwilling to see it proceeding in an aggravated way. If we are arrested some day, or even sentenced, we will calmly accept.
This was originally how we prepared ourselves psychologically at the beginning of the event, though what we really hoped was a good natured solution could be reached. All this time the force driving our struggle is not generated from exasperation, neither from wrath. (Though such factors cannot be avoided, these sentiments do not produce long lasting motivation.) We hold our ground tenaciously because of our hope for the light, thirst for the truth and righteousness, as well as commitment to love. Throughout my detention, my family, though worried about me, has been standing by me; sisters from Xinshu traveled a great distance to deliver food to me; brothers and sisters from Shouwang took turns in waiting outside day and night. I heard that a few of brothers and sisters would not leave the police station the whole night; some came by braving a rainstorm; Mrs. Enping, the pastor’s wife, would not leave until dawn despite a death in her family. I have received a huge volume of text messages, and I have no idea how to keep counts of the prayers. I deeply believe this is a testimony to the faith, and it is this power that will deliver the redemption of this nation and people.
At around 1p.m. on the afternoon of the 16th I chose to go home. I did what I could, though what I have achieved is so limited. After resting at home and resuming eating for a day and half, I still feel weak and dizzy. But I have been driven strongly by the wish to write down what I put above. I described many details to facilitate understanding by all, and also to provide experience to those that may go through the same process. As I am not very good at theories, I’ve found it very difficult to systematically express my ideas. Dizziness also disturbed my thoughts, making me always feel that I failed expressing myself clearly.
Nevertheless, I still attempted to share with people why I have done so, and to find ways of delivering what I believe. Over the past four months, my emotion was mixed and my mind also struggled a lot, not with the choices of major direction, but with measuring the handling of specific matters. In the case that certain aspects were not handled properly, I also learnt to accept my own limitations. Perhaps my work is not all accurate, but I’ve tried my best to seek guidance through prayers and my conscience. To those who don’t agree with certain things here, I sincerely ask for your tolerance. We do indeed lack mature experience.
May God let us know which path we should take, because this is a road that we have never traveled by.