On April 14th, a government-backed demolition crew in Zhumadian, Henan Province, China, buried a Christian couple alive. Evoking the memory of the Tiananmen Square protests, Christian church leader Li Jiangong and his wife Ding Cuimei attempted to protect the Beitou Church building from destruction by stepping in front of the bulldozer. One of the two demolition workers said, in listening distance of congregant bystanders, “Bury them alive for me. I will be responsible for their lives.”
“Crying for help, Li was able to dig his way free, but Ding suffocated before she could be rescued,” stated the report.
A local developer seized the church property. The two demolition company employees were detained while a criminal investigation team from the public security bureau is looking into the incident. Up to 1,700 churches have been demolished or had their crosses removed in Henan Province. Pastors and human rights lawyers there are being imprisoned.
Very few secular news outlets have reported on this story, but NPQ readers will not be surprised by this news, with stories about Chinese censorship here, Chinese activists here and artists here and here, and about the cozy relationship America’s elite has with Chinese authorities here and here.
In March 2016, China finally approved the new Charity Law, the draft of which NPQ discussed here in 2015. Among other details, NPQ highlighted the chilling Document 9, which reads in part, “Western anti-China forces and domestic ‘dissidents’ also incessantly carry out infiltration activities in our country’s ideological sphere, and challenge our mainstream ideology.”
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Human rights monitors say China’s crackdown on lawyers, activists, NGOs and churches is unprecedented. China is a one-party state that maintains Party control over judicial institutions and places arbitrary curbs on expression, assembly and religion.
Regardless of anyone’s faith or relationship with China, NPQ makes the case that this story matters: “Where there is no free speech, where ‘dissidents’ are written out of existence, where protests that led to the deaths of thousands are excised from public discourse, philanthropy that aims to do good works misses the most important philanthropic good work of all: the ability of people to speak, think, convene, and act.”
Imaginary evil makes for exciting movies. Real evil is gloomy, monotonous and barren: “Bury them alive for me. I will be responsible for their lives.” There is a terrifying sameness to regimes wherever they are. The intimidation, interrogations, torture, brainwashing, deception, and killing sprees aimed at wiping out anything other than allegiance to the State are the same whether in China, Iran, or Russia. Increasingly, NGO workers are victims as well.
We mourn Christian martyrs along with the Charlie Hebdo journalists and countless others through time. Some are martyred for the sake of love such as the Romeo and Juliet of Sarajevo, whose story is told here in a few powerful words by Kurt Schork.
Unwilling to condone or to obey injustice, some are compelled to call forth the truth. The story of Li Jiangong and his martyred wife Ding Cuimei is not a historical or political record, but a profoundly human one testifying for humanity against inhumanity.—James Schaffer