Bob Fu

Bob FuWe’ve all heard about the persecution of Christians in China. But is the United States headed in a similar direction?

In this episode, I talk with Bob Fu, the founder and president of China Aid - an international organization which fights for religious freedom in China. We talk about his coming to Christ as a student in China, how he participated in antigovernment protests on Tiananmen Square, the current state of religious freedom in China, and early signs of persecution of Christians in America and how we should respond.

My religious experience in China is what I call the Prison Theology. That is, millions of Chinese Christians have experienced that if you are a true follower of Christ, you want to be faithful, and imprisonment, detention culture, are the norms in China. But the thing they fear most is the manifestation-- it's the evangelism, it's preaching and practicing your faith in your workplace. That is totally forbidden. I think now in the West, we are unfortunately eye witnessing to this trend by this radical political liberalism to change the definition almost closer to the Chinese Communist version of the definition.

Helen Todd: We all have heard of religious persecution of Christians in China, but is the situation in the United States much different? I'm your host, Helen Todd, and my guest today is Bob Fu, the founder, and president of China Aid, an international organization that fights for religious freedom in China and around the world. We'll talk about Bob coming with [unintelligible] as a student in China, the current state of religious freedom in China, and the early signs of persecution of Christians in the United States. I hope you enjoy this episode of the Limitless Spirit podcast.

Hello, Bob, welcome to the Limitless Spirit podcast.

Bob: Thank you, Helen, for having me.

Helen: I'm so excited to talk to you about what you do, about your personal story. I also want to tell you I absolutely love China. Our organization has worked in China since 1999.

Bob: Wow.

Helen: My children basically grew up traveling with us on these trips to China. And my oldest son, who is 25 today, he accepted Jesus in China when he was three years old. So as you can imagine I feel very connected to your country.

Bob: Wow. Yeah, that's wonderful to hear.

Helen: You really have a very interesting biography. Let's talk about you personally for a little bit. To start with, you participated in the student demonstrations on Tiananmen Square. Tell me a little bit about that.

Bob: Yeah that was 32 years ago. I was a university student at that time. Then, of course, so when the Beijing students started the protest and demonstration, I organized our university and basically went to Tiananmen Square and occupied part of the square calling for a more accountable government, have more freedom, have more democracy.

In the end, of course, not all of our student's leaders have expected the so-called People's Government, which sent the so-called People's Liberation Army with military tanks and machine guns and conducted a massacre of thousands of Chinese students and the citizens. I was spared out of the massacre three days before it happened because my then-girlfriend, later on, became my wife, Heidi, was very sick-- I sent to the ER so I did not become a Pac-Man but God actually also rescued me out of the massacre. And I became a follower of Christ the same year in the winter of 1989.

Helen: When you participated in these demonstrations, did you really believe that it can make a difference?

Bob: Well, at that time, certainly from a humanist perspective, I did see the humanity; the freedom did transpire and inspire people to act with generosity. And when perhaps millions of students and the citizens were marching on the street in Beijing, and people were like handing off the ice creams, the water, and the food.

Even the thieves in Beijing have made the announcement like a ceasefire. There's some real dynamic change but ultimately, as we have seen, before we put our hope in a political system or any system of governance or a political party or any human being, we are doomed to be disappointed. Just like what had happened when the Communist Party had been talking this entire great ideal, this utopia idea of equality, of class struggle, of all of these--Even they talk about their own version of democracy and freedom, and then the massacre was instigated. Instead of helping some people, hundred--thousands of lives were killed under the Chinese Communist system, we all know, in the past 70 plus years, over 80-100 million lives were caused because of simply political campaigns, one after another.

Helen: The same year you became a Christian and I read in your biography that what inspired you was reading a biography of another Chinese convert to Christianity. What specifically in this person's story prompted you?

Bob: Yeah that was the Pastor Xi Shengmo. That biography was smuggled into China by our American English teachers who were Christian missionaries. During the time of the investigation, confession time by the Chinese prosecutors against those organizer leaders of the protests like me, I was so disappointed, despaired, and even disillusioned. Not only really to the political leadership, but also to those friends who really betrayed me.

I thought I was a good man. Then I think this biography for Pastor Xi showed me that, number one, I was as deprived and sinful as my betrayers. I was full of hatred toward my betrayers. Number two, there's nothing or no other human being can really change the heart of a human being. Only the appearance, only some behavior, kind of morality changes through some kind of Communist Party propaganda, it's only temporary and only creates more hypocrisy. And we need a heart change.

But when I read the testimony of Pastor Xi, it says, "If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has gone, the new has come." So we need a new creation. Who can create the new creation without the Creator himself? And who can really redeem a sinner in such depravity unless the Redeemer, Jesus Christ, himself through his salvation by faith alone in him? That's how I came to really the total conviction by the Holy Spirit. That I need to come to him and to surrender myself and accept him as my Savior and Lord. That's how, from my own soul to the soul of China, I think Jesus Christ is the only answer. That's how my faith journey started.

Helen: Then you sort of channeled your passion for change and transformation into sharing the gospel in your country, which again, got you in trouble with the government.

Bob: That's right. After I became a Christian, I mean, a follower of Christ, I thought, well, in this world, there's nothing more joyful than sharing this good news of really eternal life. I just said, you know, without much theological education, became a volunteer, full-time evangelist. Little did I know that the Chinese Communist Party had this very strict religious policy of really forbidding free evangelism.

Basically in their eyes, this is subversive to their political power. As you're preaching the gospel of the Lord of your life higher than themselves, than the Communist Party, than Chairman Mao, than all the Chinese Communist Party's authorities. That itself is a danger in their eyes, to their national security, to their political dictatorship.

I still remember, even during that time I was still a student, the public security officers, the university party secretary came to grab me again and seriously warned me that the university students are regarded as the children and the successors of Chinese Communist Party. You can't share this, as they call the superstitious Christian faith. Later on, of course, I had firsthand experience from what I call the Prison Theology that is millions of Chinese Christians had experienced that if you are a true follower of Christ and you want to be faithful, imprisonment, detention, torture, are the norms in China. In 1996, both my wife-- Heidi and I were arrested for being accused of engaging illegal evangelism. We're thrown into jail, started our time of Prison Theology experience.

Helen: Eventually, you had to leave China and you immigrated to the United States. Since then, you have become a passionate advocate for religious freedom for the Chinese Christians. But, also really religious freedom as an issue in general. One thing I want to ask you- I mentioned in the beginning that we as a ministry, as a missions organization, have been involved in China since 1999 until probably about three years ago, very actively and made yearly, and sometimes several times a year, trips to China.

It seems that this period from 1999 until probably 2015 or maybe a little prior to that, there was relatively a freedom; there was sort of a renaissance of Christian faith. Especially in some areas and some provinces more than others, there seemed more freedom for people to follow Christ and become Christians.

We even have meetings with many different government officials and they gave us the impression that we do not interfere with people's religious beliefs, as long as their religious beliefs do not speak against the government and the authority. Some of them said, "We can see that in Christianity, it's not really encouraging people to stand against the authority." Then there was a sharp change in the policy. Of course, it seems like right now, the situation reverted back to very strict times and strict policies. What do you think was the change?

Bob: You're right, Helen, to point out there's some dramatic change between the prior President Xi or they call him basically, Chairman Mao, Jr. President Xi's time, the current president and chairman of the Chinese Communist Party, is before 2015 or so. Basically, yes, during President Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintao's time, that's when you were visiting China, I wouldn't characterize as a kind of the total freedom. At least, as you said, there some tolerance. All the house churches in the illegal status still were categorized as illegal. But in some areas, some Communist Party leaders chose to really, I think, at least tolerate the existence, even the revival, and then they see the social benefit for the Christian presence. Because what the Chinese church used to say, "One more Christian, one less criminal; one more church, one less prison." The Christians are the best citizens for paying taxes to really obeying the law. They saw that kind of social benefits.

But then there is a dramatic change after President Xi Jinping took power. Of course, he models Chairman Mao's model, take China into really diehard Communism, ideological-driven society. His hero is Kim Jong Un in North Korea because that was the time he grew up in his 20s, I guess he saw these people, if they are less educated, they are shut down from the outside world, they are not given too much freedom, it's easier to be brainwashed, it's easier to be manipulated, and it's easier to be under the Communist Party's total control. Certainly, it's easier for the Communist regime to last longer. I think that is the dynamic. Certainly, we all know that that kind of is a spiritual warfare, right and because why all of a sudden these Christians are regarded as citizen groups? Even during the earthquake in 2008, the Christian groups, even the persecuted Christian groups, the house churches are the first group driving tractors, their cars, and donations on top of any other group.

Helen: I was actually there in Chengdu during that time.

Bob: Wow, so you knew this.

Helen: With some friends from church, we went out and-- it was the Chinese church that was doing that and they were passing out bottles of water to the people who lost their homes in the earthquake. On the bottle, there was just the label that said, "Jesus loves you." It was so wonderful to see these people that are completely confused and they're sitting on the ground. It's the heat, you know, and somebody handing them a water saying, "Jesus loves you," and they were saying, "Who is this Jesus? Why does he love us?" The church was doing wonderful relief work.

Bob: You have first-hand experience and eyewitnesses that time. Chairman Mao's time was back. Now, China is almost into a full-blown new Cultural Revolution. The church had been targeted, the worst since the Cultural Revolution 40 years ago. Not only the independent house churches, even the government-sanctioned churches are being targeted under this new slogan "sinicization", which means basically, the "fascification" I call it like fascism, I mean, communism ideology has to take to the dominant--everything. If a church pastor refused to pledge the total, complete loyalty to President Xi himself, then yes, you're not qualified to be a pastor. If a church congregation would not sing the Communist Party and the communist revolutionary songs or anthem at the start of the worship service, then the pastor would be arrested.

One pastor, Li Juncai, was sentenced to seven years imprisonment for refusing to even put a Communist Party flag at the parking lot of the church. Now all the Bibles were being taken from the e-commerce store. Unfortunately, these Western companies like Apple, like Amazon, they also adhere to the Communist Party's ruling and took off the Bible apps from their stores as well, so that's happening. And also millions of Chinese children, Christian children, for the first time since Cultural Revolution, we're forced to sign a Communist Party prepared form to renounce their faith in public. Parents, educators, and even doctors and nurses are now totally forbidden to have their faith at any educational institutions, in hospitals, or clinics. The citizens were even given a very large monetary incentive, like in the city of Guangzhou, I'm sure you have visited, were offered hundred thousand dollars equivalent in US dollars to so-called report the self-proclaimed illegal evangelists and illegal religious activities. It's a real new Cultural Revolution.

Helen: This is absolutely heartbreaking for me to hear, knowing that many of my friends there are in that type of position. But also, this is a very vivid example of how important it is for us to be vigilant about guarding religious freedom in a society because it's fragile and it can be taken away from us. Let's talk a little bit about... how do we define religious freedom? What is a true religious freedom in a society, and is it really possible?

Bob: Well, you asked a very sophisticated question in that sense, especially the latter part, right? But the definition of religious freedom can be summarized based on the Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that's signed even by China in 1948. Then, of course, elaborated on another Article 18 of International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Basically, I summarize it into two major components of true religious freedom. Number one is, of course, by having religious freedom means you have your freedom of your religious belief as an individual. Number two is the freedom of manifestation and practice and carrying out your faith in public square especially or anywhere. That is a very key component, I think, the Communist Party, even in its own Constitution, Article 36 in China said, "The Chinese citizens have freedom of religious belief." To them, religious belief is only a very internal individual thing. Of course, except to some belief like Falun Gong, even some kind of Qigong or Tibetan Buddhism, they are totally forbidden to even have that belief. Most of the time, they tolerate some kind of internalized belief. But the thing they fear most is the manifestation, it's the evangelism, it's preaching and practicing your faith in your workplace. That is totally forbidden.

I think now in the West we are unfortunately eye witnessing this trend by this radical political liberalism and leftist ideology is also trying to corner to change the definition almost closer to the Chinese Communist version of definition. I learned, of course, that so many cases in the US, especially under the pretext of COVID-19. In Canada, I have seen even pastor was arrested for basically sharing, practicing their faith. You have an American prison lady whose case was adopted by First Liberty Institute and she was issued a court order preventing her-- the judge ordered her not to go into the park that she basically just peacefully sharing the gospel. These things now are coming to our shore and, of course, where is the First Amendment right in this country? We are guaranteed with religious freedom. I think that is being imported.

Helen: I'm so thankful that you pointed this out because this is where exactly I was heading with that question. It seems like America is the example to the world of democracy and a free society. I mean, that's the country that the world looks up to but if you think about it, especially in the recent years, there is anything but religious freedom in America. I think this last year's pandemic really brought that to light, how limited our rights are. It seems like particularly there is a limited freedom for Christian faith, whereas other faiths are being elevated above Christianity. We want to protect the freedom of people of other faiths at the expense of Christianity. That's why I asked the second part of the question, is it really possible to have a truly free society because one person practicing their faith inevitably offends the feelings or sentiments of a person practicing another faith?

Bob: Well, yes or no, in a sense, the ideal kind of a world you would think the harmonious society would have all faiths, not only their belief but also their practice, being protected. But under the online world, especially the anti-Christ spirit is being manifested. I mean, during the COVID, the governor's, the little--mayors would issue these orders that they can open casinos, the strip clubs, and the Wal-Mart. They are called the essentials but the church has become more vulnerable. It seems COVID-19 only hurts church, only affected churches, and forbidden to worship and even how to worship. Some regulations even regulate and you're not allowed to sing, you can't open your mouth, and you can't even worship in your parking lot. These are really, I think, a challenging time and challenging questions.

I guess it was Peter, said, "Under these circumstances, we should resist with the gospel of Christ and of course, with a gentle spirit in truth and love and the devil will flee." I think the Chinese church can't offer that part of the lessons. What could we lose? Even losing this physical freedom and that the government can jail-- but they cannot jail the gospel and the truth of the gospel. The truth will set us free. I think maybe it's time for the Western Christians in the free world to wake up. Our faith, in the end, should not be expected as the warm, fuzzy, mainstream welcoming by everybody's faith. We are walking in a narrow road, and as Christ taught us that in this world, we'll have animosity, we'll have hatred, we'll have discrimination, we'll have bias, and we even have persecution. As Paul said, "Anybody who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus shall be persecuted." There's no--not only Chinese, Iranians, Venezuelans, the North Koreans, Americans too unless don't want to live a godly life in Christ Jesus.

Helen: Thank you so much for pointing this out. My final question is, in practical terms, what is the best way for a Christian to protect his or her religious freedom?

Bob: There are several ways. I think number one is really being prepared, always being informed of what's going on. Certainly, you need to be prepared in the biblical truth and knowing the teachings by Paul and Peter in their letters, they wrote these letters, most of it, many of them from the prison, the context is from prison, under persecution. Be prepared and the persecution is not a choice, it's a norm. And be prepared to rejoice in the middle of the persecution, not being discouraged because God's faithfulness will be more manifested under this difficult persecution time actually.

Number two is really to resist. I think, resist for armed resist. But I think it's a spiritual warfare, it's every strife is caused by the devil who's behind this. They want to silence our Christians, they want to make you feel that you're isolated, you are a minority, you are not going to be welcomed on social media, and the big-- will censor you. These are the things that you should be prepared with the solidarity of the persecuted. I think that's close to another lesson. Practically, to really learn something from those persecuted brothers and sisters in restricted nations, such as China, such as Iran. Already walk the walk in the middle of the persecution and its one church, one body. Not only we support them, walk with them, but also learn from them. Go to organizations like voice monitors, like you guys, like ChinaAid.org. You can learn, I mean, just hearing the stories of those persecuted, I'm hearing their joy in the middle of the persecution, hearing their prayer, their cries when they are facing the persecution, the spirit of forgiveness, they even pray for the persecuted--for the persecutor. I think that these are things that can deeply encourage our faith to move forward in our daily lives.

Helen: Thank you so much, Bob, for these words. I'm very thankful that we have in our society people like you who defend religious freedom, call attention to religious persecution. I know that many of the listeners will be interested in learning more about you so I'm thankful that you mentioned your website. We will post the link to it in our show notes. But it's ChinaAid.org, correct?

Bob: Yes, that's correct, Helen. Thank you.

Helen: Also, I know that people will be very interested in reading your story in your book, God's Double Agent. I'm sure it's available on Amazon or on your website?

Bob: Yep. It's on Amazon and everywhere, yeah.

Helen: We'll post the link to that because I think it's a fascinating story. Also, like you said, we have to be prepared and so; I think that reading your story is very encouraging and inspiring. Thank you so much for joining me on this episode, Bob, and our prayers are with you in the very important work that you're doing.

Bob's Hearing His Voice Testimony

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