LIFE IN EXILE
Interview with Religious Affairs Chief
January 1956 was a time of turbulent wind preceding a torrent; all Christian churches in the nation were immersed in an atmosphere of unprecedented terror. It was shortly after the arrests of brothers Zhen-qing Hu (in Zhejiang) and Min-dao Wang (in Beijing), and sweeping persecutions were about to break out. One day in late January, I received a phone call from Mr. Wang, the Religious Affairs Chief of Suzhou Special District, instructing me to go for an interview. Riding on the bicycle on my way there, I pleaded for the presence of the Lord and begged Him to give me appropriate words of wisdom just as He had promised ("When they deliver you up, do not worry about how to speak; or what you should speak. For it will be given you in that hour what you should speak." (Matt. 10:19).
The interview took place in a long and narrow reception room, with Chief Wang and I sitting on the east side and a listener on the west. (I found out a few days later that the listener was the Deputy Chief of Public Security who later charged me with being "counter-revolutionary".) Chief Wang spoke in a straight-forward manner, "I'm very busy and have no time to waste. Tell me right away whether you're joining the Three-Self or not. If you do, we'll bear with you; you'll be cleared and can go on teaching; but if you don't, you'll have to suffer all the consequences." Most literate Chinese people understood what the word "consequence" meant - it was either Labor Reform or imprisonment, or "political death" as the Communists called it - something greatly dreaded by most people. The family of a "politically dead" person had to suffer enormously: all friends and relatives made clear breaks from him, and his wife and children were despised and had to endure all kinds of unfair treatments, including political and financial, educational and development opportunities, job placements, wages, etc. Therefore, these "politically dead" persons were mostly divorced by their wives - who knew that even if their spouses were released later, they would still remain socially inferior and be subject to mistreatment, the worst jobs and the lowest wages (in short, they would have no future). They were commonly called "Released Elements of Labor Reform" or "Released Elements of Terms Served," and the unfavorable entries in their personal files would remain for life. One Communist judge once boasted, "Before me in my court, even the toughest and bravest person will collapse and cry like a child."
How I thank the Lord that, through His gracious support, I did not have the slightest concern for my personal interests even when confronted with such harsh judgment. I only knew that, being God's servant, I could not go against my conscience nor could I depart from biblical teachings. At that moment I was totally calm, clear-minded and humble before the Lord when I stated, "Chief, I'm a Christian and can't disobey the teachings in the Bible. The Bible says, 'Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except from God.' Therefore, as long as there's no contradiction with God's words in the Bible, I'll not be anti-government, anti-Party or anti-revolution. However, the Bible also says, 'We ought to obey God rather than man.' No man can make me disobey God and violate the principles of the Bible; this has to do with my faith, not opposition to the Party and the government. With regard to joining the Three-Self Church, I consider it a violation of biblical principles; therefore, I can't join. I'll appreciate your consideration and understanding."
Chief Wang shook his head and did not say a word. The interview ended.