LIFE IN EXILE
In China a series of political movements took place from 1949 to 1958. All the people arrested in the movements, with the exception of those who were imprisoned, were ordered to undergo "Labor Reform." This was the Communist government"s punitive measure of forced labor in Labor Camps for exiled prisoners.
In 1958 (nine years into the Reform), the government announced regulations for the implementation of "Labor Education" - a course of action almost unknown to foreigners. Basically, "Labor Reform" pertained to the sentence for criminal offences whereas "Labor Education" pertained to the highest disciplinary action for dissent of government policies. Legally speaking, they were different in nature; yet both types of offenders were subject to forced labor and were governed by the same Bureau.
In the early stage of carrying out Labor Education, the sentence term was not fixed - ending only when the reform was deemed complete and successful. For instance, in a Labor Camp in Fujian Province between 1958-1962, less than 1% of those on Labor Education were considered to have been well-reformed, while more than 50% had died during the reform.
Generally, on completion of the reform, they would still be detained in the Labor Camp but allowed home visitations of two weeks each year (except during the Cultural Revolution - special permit required). Such visitations were usually charged with mixed feelings, mostly sorrow rather than gladness.
Sent to Labor Camp For Holding Fast The Truth
In 1952 I graduated from Soochow University which was founded by the Wesleyan Denomination. All the graduates in my class, totaling 16, were assigned to work in the Chinese Academy of Science with most promising prospects. I, however, was the only one assigned to work as a high-school teacher, a relatively unpromising position in the Chinese society at that time. I was singled out because I was a minister and the government had derogatorily labeled me a "Ring-leader of Little Flock." (Little Flock was a derogatory name of a Christian group formally called The Christian Assembly1 or The Local Church.)
My fiancée was a 1951 graduate of Nanjing University Medical School (oral department). At the time the nation was staging a "contra-America and pro-Korea" campaign. My fiancée was first assigned to work in the Second Military Hospital in Qiqihaer, Helongjiang Province, and was transferred to the Military Rear-service Medical Clinic in Beijing in 1952. In accordance with government policy, because of my fiancée's relationship, I was to be given preference over my fellow graduates to work in Beijing. In addition, my fiancée's personnel supervisor, being very trusting of her, had even let her send, by registered mail, the Military Health Bureau's request for my work transfer to Beijing. Despite all this, I was detained in Suzhou as a high school teacher for being a "Ring-leader of Little Flock."
From man's perspective, my future as a high school teacher was simply unpromising; yet it was actually a wonderful arrangement of God, a "blessing" rather than a "misfortune." In high school and in the university, I learned physics in the English language and my educational foundation was good. That was why I rarely needed to prepare for my high school physics lessons, and it took me only 30 minutes to correct the study-work of my 50 students. That left me with plenty of time for spiritual devotion and gospel work - this would have been impossible if I had been sent to Beijing for the endless scientific research and study.
I was young and had a clean personal file with no unfavorable records - what the Communists called "without braids or tails" (meaning: with no political issues); in other words, I was hard to find fault with. Why then was such a person exiled for Labor Reform, and for so many years too? It was all because, in addition to my belief in Jesus Christ, I refused to participate in the so-called "Christian Three-Self Renovation Movement." The "church" controlled by the "Three-Self", commonly called The Three-Self Church, was not a true church. It replaced Jesus Christ with the Communist Party as the head of the Church, and held Communist religious policies and stipulations rather than the Bible as the basis for Christian living and ministry. Since the beginning of the Three-Self Renovation Movement in 1950, the government had exerted greater and greater pressure to enlist Christians to join and support the Three-Self.
At that time the government imposed that preachers who joined the Three-Self must preach according to the outlines set out by the authorities. The outlines were extremely ridiculous. For instance, there was a case regarding the parable of the "prodigal son" in Luke Chapter 15. I remember clearly what they said, "The prodigal son is symbolic of the proletariat (working class); the fattened calf his father ordered to be killed for the celebration feast is symbolic of the blessed life in a socialist society." This was the way we were told to preach.
I contended that in the slavery society in which Jesus lived almost 2,000 years ago, there was no such thing as a "proletariat", that the industrial revolution had not yet taken place and that machines had not yet been invented; whence came the proletariat? I added that even if their outlines were correct and conformable to biblical truth, I could only preach according to what the Holy Spirit had burdened me with rather than what they had outlined, because I was a servant of Jesus Christ, not of them. Consequently, they considered me very rebellious and adamant and ordered me to undergo intensive ideological reform. I was then sent to Nanjing for brainwashing in 1954. At the time, the government stipulated that each church in Jiangsu Province had to send one person (a pastor, minister or preacher) to Nanjing to participate in the Three-Self Renovation Movement program. I was chosen because I had strongly refused to join the Three-Self. At the time, I was teaching physics in a high-school. Unable to find a qualified substitute, they would rather settle for an unqualified one and insist that I go.
There were about 200 participants in the program. The Minister of Propaganda of Jiangsu Province, Mr. Yu, made an opening address entitled "Christianity as the Imperialists" Tool for Cultural Invasion." He urged all of us preachers to admit that Christianity was a tool used by imperialists for cultural invasion of China to poison the minds of the Chinese people, and that all missionaries were actually imperialists under the cloak of religion. Under the political pressure, the 200 or so preachers present all consented, "Yes, we've been used by the imperialists. Our headquarters are abroad (hence, not self-governing), we receive foreign funds (hence, not self-supporting), and we have foreign missionaries (hence, not self-preaching). We therefore choose to support and join the Three-Self Renovation Movement. We'll practice anti-imperialism along with patriotism and will make a clear break from imperialism and foreign Christian missions."
How I thank and praise the Lord! Throughout this period, the Lord's Spirit filled, strengthened and touched me, and I retorted, "Imperialism has nothing to do with Christianity. True Christianity cannot possibly be used by imperialism. Though neither imperialism nor capitalism existed when Jesus was walking on earth, we find in the Bible that the righteous God condemns and judges oppression and exploitation of the poor, the orphaned and the widowed. Moreover, numerous facts in church history have proven that true Christianity and imperialist invasion are not related."
1. The Christian Assembly was founded by a world-famous Bible scholar, Brother Watchman Nee, in Shanghai around 1922. Since then, it had grown very rapidly. After Brother Nee's arrest in 1952, it had gone through great changes. Personally, by God's mercy, I, too, have changed drastically - first of all, I no longer broke off fellowship with Christians of any denominational backgrounds but gladly fellowship with all who are members of the Body of Christ, treasuring the Oneness in Christ (John 17:20-23; Eph. 4:3; Acts 10:34-35).