About 3 am on September 13, 2009, the Shanxi government and officials raided the Fushan Church of Linfeng [click here for our blog on the incident], destroying 17 buildings and injuring over 20 believers. Here is the latest update from ChinaAid, one of VOMC’s partners:
Late on Saturday night, September 19, 2009, local security officials cornered six Fushan Church leaders and brought them to a secret meeting place for negotiations with 20 government officials. Singled out for their influence, the negotiating party included the wife of the Fushan Church pastor. Under pressure from the Central Government, the leading Fushan PSB officer expressed a desire to make amends for the agency's corporate actions, with the goal of preventing any turmoil that could potentially mar the 60th anniversary National Day celebrations. Angered by the brutal treatment, but willing to cooperate, the six members raised their concerns, including the continued critical conditions of several hospitalized victims and the destruction of 17 buildings on the factory compound. They requested 1.5 million yen ($235,000 CAD) to cover the damages, and the negotiations wore on heatedly throughout the night.
Despite their apparent willingness to negotiate, the local authorities remained unrepentant: One officer reportedly shouted, "But the church building itself was illegal!." The pastor's wife responded, "Even if it was an illegal church, did it have to be violent?" The authorities had no response.
At daybreak on Sunday morning, the Fushan PSB verbally agreed to pay a reparations fee of 1.4 million yen ($219,000 CAD) to Fushan Church, under the condition that the church would not construct a religious building in the future. "Call it whatever you want; just don't call it a church!" The six members were released to return home after a full night of secret negotiations.
ChinaAid President Bob Fu remains wary: "We are not sure if their promise was sincere. I spoke with the pastor of Fushan Church today, and they still had not heard from the officials. This may be a tactic to delay any actions against the government before the National Day on October 1st."
There has been little resolution for the 80,000 members of Fushan Church. Only days after the attack, the Fushan PSB shut off all power, water and communication lines to neighboring Jin Deng (Golden Lamp) Church, whose members aided victims of the attack on September 13th. Believers who have since assembled at the ruined site to pray for the church have been repeatedly chased away by security officers, threatening to beat them and forcibly dispersing the crowds. (View video of the believers prayer vigil). Officials guard the church site and block communication and traffic to churches in the surrounding communities, stifling all movement to prevent religious gatherings.
The crackdown continued when the Fushan PSB arrested and detained church member Shan Yongchang on Saturday, September 17, for send text messages to friends and family about the devastation of the church. He is still in custody, and no one has heard from him since his arrest.
It is clear that the Central government will do anything to protect the image of the Party, and suppress all perceived threats to a harmonious National Day celebration. In light of the facts, it remains to be seen whether the midnight agreement with Fushan Church is kept--or compromised.