Running to the Free World

on January 27, 2012
President Bush with Yu Jie
Yu Jie, at center, addressed human rights and religious freedom abuses in China. (Photo credit: White House)

Chinese Christian dissident and popular author, Yu Jie, titled his recent statement about leaving China, “Exposing CPC Tyranny and Running to the Free World.” Animosity-filled Leftists may condemn and make apologies for America. But to courageous democracy-lovers around the world like Yu Jie, who became a target of the Chinese government with writings such as his book China’s Best Actor: Wen Jiabao, America is still the free world and the best hope for those living under Communist oppression.

We wrote about Yu after first meeting him and his wife, Liu Min, in 2005 when IRD arranged a Capitol Hill briefing for him and another Chinese Christian dissident, Zhang Boli, one of the “most-wanted” leaders of Tiananmen Square, who is now pastor of a large Chinese church in northern Virginia. With the conversion and participation of Yu and other young intellectuals and dissidents, the Church in China has been infused with new energy and confidence with which to confront the Communist government of the People’s Republic. Yu, a prolific writer and former vice-president of the Independent Chinese PEN Center, was a leader of Bejing’s Ark Church, a house church movement started as a Bible study by his wife Liu Min and two friends in 2001.

In a similar fashion to the young artists, writers, and activists who transformed the underground church in the Soviet Union, many new Chinese converts to Christianity are young urban intellectuals – authors, lawyers, journalists, and members of the pro-democracy movement. The fusion of the traditional house church movement, that has always proclaimed boldly and suffered willingly for the cause of Christ, and the young, intellectual pro-democracy movement, courageously challenging the government to embrace democracy and human rights, is a powerful force for the transformation of China. But it has also been a powerful threat to the Chinese Communist regime.

Because of this threat, China has cracked down in a severe fashion on many of the leading voices for democracy, including Yu Jie. On January 18, 2012, the Laogai Research Foundation, founded by Chinese dissident and hero Harry Wu, hosted a press conference for Yu to tell his story of imprisonment and torture by Chinese government, as well as the repression of his family. Particularly because of his writings critical of the government and his close friendship with 2010 Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo, Yu and his family have been victims of persecution since December 2010. In fact, said Yu at the press conference, his whole life changed after Liu’s award.

On October 8, 2010 when the Nobel Peace Prize awardee was announced, Yu was in the United States and had already begun writing a biography of his friend, Liu, as authorized by his wife, Liu Xia. As soon as he returned to Beijing he was put under house arrest, guarded 24 hours/day. The police even installed cameras and infra-red detectors on his house. At first Yu’s wife, Liu Min, was allowed to leave the house to go to work, but when police discovered that she had been in contact with Liu Xia, she was also put under house arrest. When Liu Min fell sick and had a temperature of 104 degrees, the Public Security Bureau officers refused to let her go to the hospital until a friend saw Yu’s call for help on Twitter, and contacted an ambulance. Even then, the doctor had to persist in demanding she be allowed to go to the hospital.

Liu Min, Faith McDonnell, David Aikman, Zhang Boli, and Yu JieLife grew progressively worse for Yu Jie’s family, and on December 9, the day before the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony, Yu was forced into a police car and taken to a secret location where he was stripped naked, beaten, verbally abused, slapped over one hundred times, kicked in the ribs, and otherwise tortured. Yu recounts, “They forced me to spread out my hands and bent my fingers backwards one by one. They said, ‘You’ve written many articles attacking the Communist Party with these hands, so we want to break your fingers one by one.’” The police threatened to bury him alive and said they would “punch him to death,” to avenge the humiliation of the Nobel Peace Prize given to Liu Xiaobo. When Yu passed out from the torture and went into convulsions, the police drove him to a hospital in the outskirts of Beijing. In a state of semi-consciousness, Yu heard the doctor say that he was too severely injured to be treated there, and would die if they did not take him to a larger hospital in the city. Yu’s entire statement of his eventual release from custody, and ongoing life under surveillance was translated by Human Rights in China.

One of the hardest parts of this treatment for Yu Jie was that not only did he lose the freedom to write, but he said that most of the time he was unable to go to church or attend Bible study meetings. There was too much at risk for his fellow believers, even if he had been free to leave. “To me, this was an extremely painful thing,” Yu explained.

After months of petitioning the Chinese government, Yu Jie, Liu Min, and their little boy, Justin, were finally given permission to leave China. On January 11, says Yu, they boarded a plane to the United States “under the tight monitoring of state security officers.” Now Yu will be able to complete his biography of Liu Xiaobo, another book entitled Hu Jintao: Cold-Blooded Tyrant, and condemn the Communist Party dictatorship, which he calls an “increasingly fascist, barbaric, and brutal regime” which is “the greatest threat to the free world and the greatest threat to all freedom-loving people.”

Although Yu Jie loves American ideals and America’s great heritage of freedom, he is realistic about American foreign policy. During questions at the press conference he declared that “the U.S. may express verbal objections, but business between China and the West will continue. Mr. Obama and Hu Jintao will continue to be friends.”

He warned that China was an even greater danger than the Soviet Union because it is part of the globalized world, “not behind the Iron Curtain.” China’s products are from child labor and slave labor, he said. “The very foundations of western democracy are being eroded by those products,” he lamented. And China is exporting this evil system to other places, such as the African continent, he said.

Yu is still full of hope that the West, particularly America, will support the forces of democracy and freedom within China to free China. He will work to that end through his writings, testimonies, and petitions to western democracies, the United Nations Human Rights Council, and other international agencies. Liu Xiaobo will become China’s “Mandela,” he prophesies. And as for himself, Yu says, “I will return to a China that has achieved democracy and freedom. Then our lives will be like those described in the Bible, Behold how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!”


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