Pondering the plight of the people of China, one’s head can start spinning. The stories of oppression — including imprisonment and executions; citizens simply “disappearing”; dissidents undergoing torture, beatings, and intimidation; and absolute control of just about every aspect of everyday life — seem like fiction. But the very personal story of a single man who lived through the nightmare of persecution and imprisonment reveals how very real the injustice truly is.
Bob Fu was a pro-democracy student who protested at Tiananmen Square in 1989. He and his future wife were spared the harm that befell other students, but Fu knew he had to continue to speak up. Soon afterward, he became a Christian and Fu’s fate was sealed: He had to fight for the rights of the faithful to practice their religion openly. When his wife, Heidi, discovered she was pregnant, they both knew they would likely lose their child to a forced abortion. The tale of the couple’s escape is riveting — and the new life they are pursuing in the U.S. is inspiring.
Fu spoke with Colette Moran, a contributor to National Review Online’s Home Front blog, about his new book, God’s Double Agent: The True Story of a Christian’s Fight for Freedom, which he penned with National Review Online contributor Nancy French.
COLETTE MORAN: Your activism started as a student. Knowing the risks you were taking, what key moment provoked you to speak up?
BOB FU: The key moment was when I found the government had not given a truthful explanation about the sudden death of former CCP general secretary Hu Yaobang. I learned from an internal source that he died while attending a high-level meeting about education reform. Among the many millions of like-minded Chinese students, Mr. Hu was extremely popular and respected as a reformer . . . I wrote a poem to commemorate him that was published on the front page of our university’s newspaper. It was abruptly recalled and destroyed by the school’s propaganda department. I was furious about their cover-up effort. Then I observed hundreds of thousands of university students in Beijing taking to the streets, protesting, and even engaging in hunger strikes in Tiananmen Square. I felt I finally needed to rally the students from our university, so I organized the first city-wide demonstration and protest asking for anti-corruption and democracy.
MORAN: How did your conversion to Christianity affect your activism?
FU: My conversion to Christianity provided me with both the spiritual foundation and the courage to face danger for my activism. Without my faith, I couldn’t see where human dignity and rights come from (Imago Dei). Without my faith, I couldn’t find myself as sinful and depraved as my betrayer, thus I couldn’t rescue myself from desperation, let alone save others and the nation. It continues to provide me with the very courage to fight for the freedom of other “least of my brothers and sisters” in China.
MORAN: Only “state-sanctioned” churches are allowed in China. How do Christians deal with that?
FU: Although the officially sanctioned church is the only one “legally” allowed to exist in China, many more believers choose to worship in unregistered places, including their homes. They know they could be declared as “illegal and subject for persecution,” yet they continue because their loyalty to Christ Jesus — who they know is the only head of the church, not the CCP – is more important to their faith than anything else. And they know they are facing the same challenges as the apostles Paul and Peter, and church martyrs like Justin Martyr and Polycarp of Smyrna, have faced. It is rather a glorious thing for their faith to be tested under fire. So that’s why so many continue to establish house churches and worship despite the risks.
MORAN: Are these unsanctioned churches tolerated as long as they do not stir up trouble, or are they truly in constant peril for their mere existence?
FU: Most of the underground churches are always facing constant danger. The CCP government can choose to launch a crackdown against them at any time. Yet the degree of persecution varies because of different factors. In Xinjiang or Tibet, house churches could be raided and leaders arrested for having a simple prayer service. But in southeastern China in a city such as Wenzhou, some congregations can build their churches openly. The Christian population there has reached nearly 20 percent, with lots of economic power and impact. It depends on local officials’ willingness to implement the repressive religious policy or not, and how much impact the Christians have in the local economy and other social sectors.
MORAN: Clearly, it was imperative for you, your wife, and your preborn son to escape to America. What is the greatest advantage of fighting for the rights of Chinese Christians — and against other human-rights violations — from outside your native country?
FU: The greatest advantage from outside is the platforms and protections of the fundamental freedoms such as speech, expression, and the press, so that we can be a true voice for the voiceless. This is especially true nowadays with social media and the Internet. We can not only mobilize enormous support for the oppressed, but also the oppressed can know instantly what we are doing for them and they are encouraged to continue.
MORAN: Though there has recently been some progress with the one-child policy, forced abortions still occur. What would make the greatest impact in this fight?
FU: I think the global Christian community and all people of faith and conscience in and outside China should speak out more forcefully and clearly about this issue. They should demand our elected officials take a clear stand against the forced abortion and family-planning system as well as exposing the cruelty of the one-child policy, which is against women and children. Then the impact might be great enough to change it.
Find a review of God’s Double Agent from Christianity Today here.
— Colette Moran writes for National Review Online’s Home Front.