Members of the Fangzhou Congregation, a house church in Beijing’s Chaoyang district (they gather in apartments or other non-official sites to meet and worship) received some surprise visits last Sunday afternoon, January 15. At around 4:30 pm, two uniformed Beijing police officers and two plainclothes police (well, no one knows if they were really police) came in and said that they had to do some investigation of this congregation. The police accused the church of “disturbing the peace” (扰民）and illegal assembly, owing to the fact that the place where they had held the Sunday services had not been officially sanctioned. The usual type melee ensued, with accusations flying back and forth and tugs of war with video cameras. Why all the brouhaha over some small, insignificant house church? Because of the people in it, who are all notorious troublemakers. Yu Jie is an outspoken writer and intellectual that founded China’s first PEN association, a pro-freedom of expression writer’s group. Gao Zhisheng is a lawyer, and Wikipedia has this to say about him:
In 2000 he moved to Beijing and established the Shengzhi Law Office with a half dozen other lawyers.
On November 4, 2005 Beijing Municipal Bureau of Justice’s official notice closing the firm for failure to notify the authorities of its change of address and the “illegal” submission of legal documents to a lawyer who does not work for the firm, is received by Gao Zhisheng.
Oh yeah, and look what he’s recently been up to:
On December 21, 2005, one of the most prominent human rights lawyers Mr. Gao Zhisheng issued an investigative report regarding persecutions against House Church leaders and Christian believers in Xinjiang Autonomous Region … The report shows the hard persecution faced by the Christian house churches in Xinjiang.
Did we mention that Mr. Gao was also involved with the Taishi incident down in Guangdong? It’s been a rough couple of months for Mr. Gao, what with the closing of his firm and his family being followed wherever they go. Shanghaiist guesses that’s why in December he and his wife publicly resigned from the Communist Party.
Another guy who’s affiliated with this house church and its members is Li Boguang:
Li Boguang, a graduate in philosophy, politics and law, had helped farmers in many parts of China to exercise their right to seek compensation for confiscated farmland. Earlier in 2004 he reportedly published an article examining the impact of corruption on the lives of farmers. He also helped farmers in Fu’an petition the central government in a dispute over land.
In an article posted on the Internet in October 2004, Li Boguang warned that farmers in Fujian and other areas had been ordered to report on his whereabouts and that he had been threatened with arrest should he return to Fu’an. He was arrested in Fu’an two months later. Fu’an police reportedly searched his home in Beijing, confiscating computers and documents. It is unclear whether he has been charged with any crime.
You might not be able to open some of these links up from within China. That too, is part of the story …
Picture of lawyer Gao Zhisheng.