The founder of the Early Rain Covenant Church, arrested last December, is accused of "subversion of state power". In reality, he only demands full religious freedom. His testimony is "a war against brainwashing", and to wrest the Chinese culture and people from the banality of materialism: a war for "the soul".
Berlin (AsiaNews) - Pastor Wang Yi (left in the photo), one of the most brilliant figures in contemporary China, risks being sentenced to dozens of years in prison for "subversion against state power", just because he has founded the Early Rain Covenant Church, which refuses to be restricted and controlled by patriotic associations. Being sick with gout, he risks dying in prison, just like the dissident writer Liu Xiaobo. For this reason, the dissident writer Liao Yiwu (right in the photo), now an exile in Germany, has launched this appeal on social media, which AsiaNews publishes in full below.
The appeal is dated February 8, 2019. Before its official publication, it received the strong support of the sinologists Perry Link, Michael Martin Day and Marie Holzman, the writer and Nobel laureate Herta Müller and the writer Martin Shult, the director Stephan Knies and the director of the Berlin Literature Festival, Ulrich Schreiber.
According to Liao Yiwu, Wang Yi's testimony is "a war against brainwashing," of the spasmodic control that the regime's paranoia has over the population. It is also a "spiritual" war, to save the soul of China, now reduced to the dimensions of materialism and power, which unfortunately finds supporters and allies in the world. These are the so-called "friends of China", who in reality are " friends ”of Chinese economic power, at the expense of its population.
To better understand the news references to Wang Yi's case, we added notes that refer to AsiaNews articles published in recent months.
On December 9th, 2018, on the eve of international Human Rights Day, in my hometown of Chengdu, Sichuan, the most influential house church in China today, the Early Rain Covenant Church[i], was raided by the police and banned[ii], and more than 100 believers were taken away. The chapel, seminary, and other church property funded by the congregants were seized and the property was immediately illegally occupied, becoming the government office hall of the Double Eyes Well Community. The founders of the church, the husband-and-wife pair of Wang Yi and Jiang Rong, were both accused of “inciting subversion of state power”, arrested[iii] and have gone missing until this day, leaving their ten-year-old son, Wang Shuya, to be looked after by Wang Yi’s parents. A few days ago, burning with worry, Wang Yi’s father sought out a lawyer for his son. Unexpectedly, just after the two parties had finished their interview, police officers who had been surveilling them rushed up and arrested the lawyer, interrogated him in the police station for six hours, confiscated all related legal documents, and announced he had been stripped of his right to provide counsel.
Wang Yi and I have known each other for 20 years. We are both dissident poets and writers and have both been directors of the Independent Chinese Pen Association. Together, we also published four underground books that have been banned. As I had visa applications to leave the country rejected 16 times, Wang also acted as my human rights lawyer. In 2005, Jiang Rong and Wang Yi were baptized and returned to the Lord. A half year later, Wang Yi, Yu Jie, Li Boguang and other Chinese Christians were received by President Bush in the White House. In the aftermath of the Sichuan earthquake[iv] in 2008, Wang Yi and his wife founded the Early Rain Covenant Church in their home. Since then, they have been repeatedly harassed by the police and have been interrogated over 20 times. Later, Wang Yi became the chief pastor of the Early Rain Covenant Church and the most controversial "political pastor"[v] among the more than 10 million congregants of China’s underground churches.
Every year on the anniversary of June 4th Massacre, he has held a prayer meeting for the victims of the Tiananmen Massacre[vi], for which he has been repeatedly censured. He has responded: "Many people ask us why we pray for June 4th as it is politics. I say I didn’t see politics, I saw people being killed, an injustice, people being oppressed and suffering. In a politicized society, just maintaining freedom of conscience is already considered political."
On October 28, 2018, he preached: "This country is launching a war against the soul, although the ranking of this war is not the most advanced, it is the most important war. In Xinjiang, in Tibet, in Shanghai, in Beijing, in Chengdu[vii], the rulers of this country are launching this war, but they have established for themselves an enemy that can never be detained, can never be destroyed, will never capitulate nor be conquered: the soul of man...so they are destined to lose this war and are doomed to fail..."
He went on to mention the spiritual life, stating that life without spirituality is consequently undignified. He stressed: "Just as the spiritual life is the essence of human life, just as Christian faith is so precious, the one thing we cannot bear to lose, and is even the one treasure we sinners possess [is our spiritual life]; just so, when this country comes to take this sole treasure away, we beseech the Lord to fill us with the Holy Spirit, Amen. We beseech the Lord to let us not only do this, but to also let us use our persecution to convey a gospel of persecution to the society of China. Let them torture themselves in questioning the value their own souls, interrogating their own pitiable, despicable lives; where is dignity, honor and freedom under such a dictatorship of money and absolute power? It is either in Jesus Christ, or there is no dignity at all....."
And, so, Wang Yi was accused of "inciting subversion of state power", and the sentence awaiting him will be no less than that of Liu Xiaobo[viii], who was convicted of the same crime. And as he follows in the glorious path of a martyr, I predict that it can be no less than the Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo.
In this "brainwashing war", or call it a "war of souls," like those of authoritarian tyrants such as Hitler, Stalin, Mao Zedong, etc., God's servants Wang Yi and Jiang Rong have become captives of "this country", just as a decade ago, Liu Xiaobo became a prisoner of "this country" for drafting Charter 08[ix]. Wang Yi has stated: "If you tame the rulers in heaven, you cannot tame the dictators on the ground." This young "egg", who is 18 years younger than Liu Xiaobo, is at the turning point of this darkest chapter of Chinese history, similar to the martyred saint Dietrich Bonhoeffer during the Nazi period in Germany, when he openly confronted the "boulder" coming to crush him. At an evangelistic meeting on September 11, 2018, Wang shouted: "We have a duty to tell Xi Jinping that he is a sinner. The government he leads has greatly offended God because it has persecuted the church of our Lord Jesus Christ; if it does not repent, it must perish. We must proclaim that an evil person like him still has a way out. And the only way out is the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ... we say this as it is of true benefit to him and China’s rulers: we don't want to see them sinking into hell, being cursed by God..."
In a sermon on the evening of September 21, 2018, he told the more than 500 Christians present: "In the persecution of the Henan House Church, not only was the cross dismantled, but the church was looted, and even the bibles and psalm books were burned. In the China’s history of the twentieth century to the present, this is the fourth burning of the Bible. In 1900, the Boxers burned the Bible and killed Western missionaries, but the Lord at that time prepared a group of local evangelists for the future revival of his church. The second time was the heathen movement of 1922-1927, when the government burned bibles in large numbers; but it was followed by a ten-year renaissance of the Church from 1927 to 1937. The Cultural Revolution of 1966-1976 was the third time China’s rulers burned the Bible and demolished churches; but since the end of the Cultural Revolution, the Church of our Lord has had a revival of forty years in length. So, a few days ago someone asked: ‘Pastor Wang, don't you worry that you will go to jail?’ I replied, I don't worry, I just want to know one thing: Is the Lord using this burning and persecution in 2018 to somehow raise up a group of preachers for the church in China? And are some of them congregants of the Early Rain Covenant Church ...... "
In the early spring of 2011, on the eve of my escape across the Sino-Vietnamese border, Wang Yi sent an e-mail to his friends that accurately predicted his own, later calamity. “Going to prison is like going to Africa,” he wrote, “God has given me three brocade purses: the ability to move house at any time, to go to jail at any time, and to return to my heavenly home at any time.”
Seven years later, he finds himself in a cage. A common friend of ours, from our hometown thousands of miles away, mailed me Wang’s four underground poetry collections. Once, I deliberately did not read his writings. I am not a Christian, although I wrote God is Red, a book pirated and praised by Wang Yi as “exalting the Lord”. However, I never subconsciously felt any form of mission or desire to offer praise. Although I will diligently write everything down [that I am told], I am but a tape recorder of an era.
But the "recorder" also bursts into tears, just as I do now as I read Wang’s poems, mulling over "going to prison is like going to Africa" - so far away! So far away!! Can he return? Can I still see him in this life? in this world?
The prison cells of the Communist Party are getting darker and darker. Both Liu Xiaobo[x] and Yang Tianshui[xi] have died within them. They were only in their 60s. They were both non-violent dissident writers. As soon as their sentences were almost served, they were suddenly diagnosed to have terminal illnesses… and Wang Yi has chronic gout that is extremely painful whenever it strikes. Will the police who took him "to Africa" let him carry painkillers with him? The next surprise interrogation he is subjected to, an attack of gout can be expected, and as he writhes in pain on the floor, will they send him to the hospital….
Our teacher in this profession, Solzhenitsyn, compared the labor camps all over the Soviet Union to a “gulag archipelago." He described how when a person had not yet entered, the archipelago is like a constellation in the sky, so far away, unfathomable, no one knows how to reach it. Until one day the catastrophe befalls them, and they then realize the only way to get there is through formal arrest. Coming back, or never coming back, no one can tell….
Yes, when I left the birthplace of my nightmares, the gout patient Wang Yi continued to move onward and desperately resisted for seven more years before finally being formally arrested instead of being “asked to tea”, "subpoenaed", "placed under house arrest", "repatriated", "sent on vacation", "gone missing" or "black-hooded". I have a foreboding feeling he will not return! Everyone knows that country and its cities known as Chengdu, Lhasa, Urumqi or Beijing, are secretly filled with political prisoners serving their time. For those who for the time being have yet to enter, they are as remote as the archipelago or Africa.
I am here with an appeal for the poet, writer and pastor Wang Yi and his wife, Jiang Rong. I hope that all Western politicians and poets, writers, scholars, human rights activists and ordinary citizens will pay attention to this confrontation with brainwashing, this resistance in the war of hijacking the souls of China’s people; I hope that German Chancellor Merkel[xii] and Foreign Minister Maas will make use of their influence on China to prompt the Xi Jinping regime to release the Wang Yi and Jiang Rong; I also hope President Trump and the US government will link their unprecedented trade wars with human rights and rescue Wang Yi and his wife. I say this because the President put his hand on the Bible when he was sworn in, and Wang Yi was arrested and imprisoned in protest against the burning of the same Bible.
Of course, I also hope that the Pope and the Vatican, who signed a shameful agreement with the Chinese government[xiii] not long ago, will repent and publicly propose the release of God's children, Wang Yi and Jiang Rong.
Dear friends, whether we know each other or not, thank you for reading and passing this on. I also hope that you will express what you feel and your conscience in any way you find appropriate, and support this appeal.
Liao Yiwu, exiled writer
On Chinese New Year’s Eve, 2019, Berlin
[Trans. by Michael Martin Day, National University, CA]
Three Poems by Wang Yi
Rise Up, Go Call On the Dear Departed
Rise up, go call on the dear departed
The rain’s stopped, the rice’s already above your knees
Do you believe the instant a broken bone heals
It’s sturdier than when intact?
Death is the antonym of creation
In great volumes, books on death
Are awarded Nobel prizes
Breathing still calmly carries on
Explaining invisible things by way of tangible objects
Or going about it the other way round?
Rise up, return to a homeland that’s already gone
Do you believe the swaying of trees whips up the wind
And it’s not the wind blowing the trees?
Is the start buried in the end, or is a
Blurry-faced person incessantly making
Idols after his own image?
Rise up, go ask forgiveness of a dead man
Winter has passed and this is my purpose on earth
He has died and cannot die again
I have lived and cannot live again
January 11, 2016, Chengdu
God of the Moment
God of the moment. Not a part
Of any time. The god here
The god there. The same god
At weddings, at funerals
In dialogue, and on the road being travelled
God of the moment. Bearing wounds and worry
Carrying all the perfections of the imperfect
Carrying the scars of history, the odor of dust
The same god. Dropping disasters and
Bestowing blessings. Judging people and pitying people
God of the moment. Freeing the heart
Also bending the body. Magnificent
Insignificant, a god of
Christmas and of Good Friday
A god of white people, a god of black people
Hey, god of the moment. God of
The Party and the people
God of dogs, pigs, and breeders
The god of judges and convicts,
Nuclear bombs and stem cells
God of the moment. Of Bethlehem
Guiyang and Chengdu
God of heavenly stems and earthly branches, of Yin and Yang
God of parties of the right and left, of the long-lived and prematurely dead
Of all that breathe, offer praise or rejection
December 20, 2012, A prayer while waiting for the holiday
In this Age, You Must Write a Poem that Borders on Criminal
In this age, you must write a poem that borders on criminal.
A line of Chinese characters may overthrow a state.
A sonnet may overthrow fourteen states.
At a secret masquerade, let those who recognize you
Identify you. Those who don’t recognize you do so even less.
In this age, you must make leaders fear a poem.
A metaphor is a nuclear bomb.
The singer doesn’t know a page of absurd words are tears of a subjugated nation.
On the worst days, a massive sea swell strikes.
Death becomes a prisoner, detained by water.
Who is not related to a political prisoner? Who is not the widow of a ghost?
In this age, when you recite a poem, you become suspect of crime.
If you don’t recite, they’ll recite you.
In this age, the blind stammer to themselves.
Holy, holy, holy. The blind ask the deaf, have you seen?
In this age, you must write a poem that borders on criminal.
Pay respect to those suspected of this crime.
June 5, 2015, at night
[i] AsiaNews.it, 07/03/2019, "Eleven children, including a two-month baby, from the Early Rain Covenant Church arrested in Chengdu" [ed]
[ii] AsiaNews.it, 11/12/2018, "Chengdu, abuse and police violence after the arrest of 100 Protestant Christians" [ed]
[iii] AsiaNews.it, 12/14/2018, "Letter from Pastor Wang Yi, arrested along with 100 faithful" [ed]
[v] AsiaNews.it, 05/06/2018, "Underground Protestant church shut down for remembering Tiananmen"
[vi] AsiaNews.it, 02/05/2018, "Protestant pastor: Resist new regulations on religious activities" [ed]
[vii] AsiaNews.it, 19/05/2018, "Campaign against the Protestant underground churches intensifies" [ed]
[viii] AsiaNews.it, 07/13/2018, "A year after his death, Liu Xiaobo is still taboo for Beijing" [ed]
[ix] AsiaNews.it, 01/26/2009, "The complete text of Carta 08, for human rights in China" [ed]
[xi] AsiaNews.it, 03/23/2010, "Cyber-dissident Yang Tianshui to go on hunger strike to get medicine"
[xii] AsiaNews.it, 05/29/2018, "Beijing, Angela Merkel meets wives of jailed lawyers" [ed]
[xiii] AsiaNews.it, 09/24/2018, "The China-Vatican agreement: some positive steps, but without forgetting the martyrs" [ed]