02/21/2006, 00.00
CHINA
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Gao: "Anti-Christian persecution destroys purest values"

After two years of work in the northern province of Xinjiang, Gao Zhisheng, lawyer and human rights activist, published a long report about the brutal persecution suffered by unofficial Christians and embraced their faith. This is the third in a series of articles about Gao Zhisheng, who has been on a hunger strike for some weeks now to call for human rights in China.

Beijing (AsiaNews) – "It is time for an immediate awakening", wrote Gao Zhisheng, famous lawyer and human rights activist, at the end of his long report on the persecution targeting unofficial Christians in Xinjiang where "once again", he saw the rise of "heavy shadows of the police as a social group which uses unscrupulous brutality that undermines the public order of the society".

The report is the fruit of five days of meetings with unofficial Christians of Urumqi and other cities in the province, which took place between 20 and 25 November 2005. However, the origin of the report lies in the two years spent by Gao in Xinjiang, at the start of his legal career. During this time, Gao, who was born poor, became a lawyer: it was here that he offered legal aid for free to local people, and started to take an interest in the plight of Christians, persecuted by the authorities because they were not registered with the Religious Affairs Office.

"Year in and year out, brutal arrests, suppression, crackdowns and interrogating Christians are the only work this band of policemen have to do. One can never imagine this is done by a group of civilized adults," said the lawyer.

"The report is not to remind them of the cruelty motivating them, by now deeply rooted. What we want is to remind the world of the danger of continuing to tolerate this group of slaughterers and their masters, who destroy our purest values." In the document, "it is not the worst testimonies which are presented, but those which convinced me of the purity of Christian values". Many of those who talked to Gao, have "disappeared in mysterious circumstances" and now the lawyer "does not feel he can talk about cases known to the authorities without their explicit authorization". He added: "An academic reminded me that the suffering of Christians has been going on for 56 years".

Here we reproduce a series of testimonies included in the document:

Lianru Ma, Christian, arrested in November 2003

As about a dozen Christians and I were gathering at an elderly person's residence (to celebrate Christmas), we sang songs. While we were doing this, people from the local police station, Qitai County Public Security Bureau and Bureau of Religion came in. After they arrived, they ordered us to stop singing and asked us who is the leader of the gathering. When I said I was, they began to take photos of the Bible passages written on the blackboard. After that, they took Christians one by one to a room for written statements. Then, they took my brother and me into a police vehicle and took away the belts on our trousers. When we arrived at a local police station, they made us stay in a conference lobby for introspection. They made me answer their questions while they recording everything with a camera. When the camera was switched off, they beat me with the belts.

I answered every of their questions while I bled, and at the end they told me that what we believe in is a cult and we don't have their approval. I don't understand how this happened or what I was accused of. Since then, I have been arrested without warning many times: each day, I wake up thinking I may be taken back to prison from one minute to the next."

Lingzhi Xia, Christian, 63 years:

I went to attend a Christian prayer meeting in Xishan Road at 3pm on August 5, 2005. However, before I could settle down in the seat in the room, a group of policemen broke in. They ordered everyone in the room to stand still and no one could leave. After the operation, they took me to a women's detention center in Liudaowan, Urumqi. I was then given a statement of decision on penalty and was told I would be put in administrative detention for 15 days for "endangering State security". They interrogated me 10 times. I was confused and afraid, worried about my husband and my son, at home with no news of me.

I had coronary heart disease and high blood pressure.

On August 31, 2005, my son went to Guobao Brigade and a police officer there told him that I am on the wanted list of Ministry of State Public Security. After he went back home, he became very worried. As my son had always had high blood pressure, like me, this news provoked a cerebral hemorrhage. He was rushed to a hospital, where he died. I was released on 2 September.

Qimiao Tong, Christian

On the morning of September 28, 2005, I suddenly received a call from the Chinese Ministry of State Security and was told to go to the Bureau of Security immediately. I had no idea why I was asked to go; I thought it was to give some public testimony. I arrived at the gate of Bureau of Security at almost 11 o'clock and Ai, the man who had telephoned me, brought me to a room on the second floor of the guesthouse in the back. As soon as I entered the room, I saw two men lying on the bed. One was a person of Han nationality and the other was of Uighur (ethnicity from the northern region of Xinjiang) nationality and they were both around 30 years of age. They were waiting for me.

I shook their hand and apologised for being late and one of them told me: "What do you think you are? We saved your face today by not coming to you in a vehicle and bringing you here in a pair of handcuffs. We have been following you for over a year.' I said: 'If you have evidence, you can handcuff me now.' When I replied, the man of Han nationality named Wang kicked me viciously in the chest. The pain was so strong I could not talk.

My interrogators took me to a detention centre where I asked to be seen by a doctor, but I was refused. The three men locked me up in a room where I could not even lie down because of the pain. After some time, I don't know how long, they took me back to the Bureau of State Security where, after talking among themselves, they told me: "Good, now that the holiday is around the corner (National Day), we will let you go. If we need something here, we'll ask you to come over." I struggled to the gate almost crawling in pain. I called my wife and asked her to pick me up. She took me to the emergency service in hospital where they found that the kick had fractured my rib.

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