The Heroic Fight of Pastor Bob Fu for Religious Liberty in China:
An Interview with Pastor Bob Fu

This moving interview with Pastor Bob Fu, one of the world’s leading voices for persecuted faith communities in China, shines a spotlight on the lack of true religious freedom in China and warns the world about the Chinese sinicization of religion. His story of faith and belief in the face of the harshest obstacles for himself and his family shows the strength of belief and the importance of faith. We are so honored to share his story, his work, and his hope with all of our readers.

(Interviewer: Hanako Cho)


A Miraculous Escape from China

Interviewer: You led House churches in China and served prison time for illegal evangelism before arriving in the U.S. Could you please share with us why you didn’t lose hope in prison and why you came to found the advocacy group, ChinaAid?

Pastor Bob Fu: I was in China because of my involvement in organizing the House church movement. The Chinese government imprisoned my wife and I, and we were put in a prison for two months. And then we were released, but under house arrest. And later we found out we would be arrested again. And also, my wife was pregnant without permission, a pregnancy permit, because of the family planning policy. So she could face imminent forced abortion. So we had to flee out of Beijing. And then really, God opened the door. Miraculously, we were able to escape to Hong Kong in later 1996. And then in 1997, three days before Hong Kong was to be handed over to China, we were accepted into the US as refugees.

Interviewer: So you were very lucky.

Pastor Bob Fu: Yes. It’s really a lot of miracles. So God opened the door. And because there had been so many persecution cases in China, and we have heard on a daily basis all these brothers and sisters, and Christian pastors were being arrested, so that’s the reason we established ChinaAid. The purpose of ChinaAid is to work with those persecuted faithful by advancing religious freedom for all and also advance the rule of law. So that’s kind of the key mission of ChinaAid. I established this organization in Philadelphia 16 years ago.

Interviewer: So you have been maintaining this holy work almost 16 years?

Pastor Bob Fu: Yes, yes. Non-stop [laughter].


The Three Missions of ChinaAid

Interviewer: What are the missions of ChinaAid? According to the Website, you hve been exposing the abuse and persecution, encouraging the abused, and also equipping the leaders. The first one is very easy to understand because we are attempting to do the same thing in our monthly magazine. And the second and third missions are a bit difficult to understand for our leaders, so could you please tell us what you are doing for the second and third “E’s”?

Pastor Bob Fu: Yes, we have three “E’s” as our mission. In encouraging the abused we do the following things: providing financial support for those who are persecuted, including the family of prisoners, their children, and if a pastor’s in prison, assisting the wife and children because they would be in a very difficult situation. So we provide some financial funding. And we also send people to encourage those persecuted, and to visit the families of prisoners. So that’s also an encouragement. We also ask our supporters to write letters to the family of prisoners and the prisoners themselves. So we generate hundreds of thousands of letters to send to these prison addresses so that the prison officials know that many, many people in the free world care about these prisoners and pray for them.

Interviewer: Do the letters arrive safely to the prisoners in jail?

Pastor Bob Fu: Most of the time the prisoner themselves cannot receive these letters in the beginning. So usually, they would be given the letters after they finished their prison sentence. But usually, when you have tens of thousands of letters from all over the world — sometimes from over 100 countries — sent to a prison, the prisoners’ condition and treatment will always get better.

Interviewer: Really?

Pastor Bob Fu: Yes. We have a Christian leader who was sentenced to 15 years imprisonment in the Hubei province. And after we started the letter campaign, within a couple weeks, three, four thousand letters were sent to her labor camp. And then the next month when her mother visited her in prison, she asked her mother, saying, “Mom, what had happened? And the prison officials kept asking me how many overseas relatives do you have [laughter]?” You could sort of tell she was excited and her treatment was much better.


Sending Visitors to China to Encourage Persecuted Believers

Interviewer: You also mentioned that you sent visitors to China for encouragement. Is that really feasible despite the city peace control?

Pastor Bob Fu: Well, it is very difficult, of course, because after all, the prison does not easily allow visits. Right? Even the family members sometimes have difficulty in visiting. But at least if we send people, those brothers and sisters in the west who travel to China can meet with those families of prisoners and tell them that they’re not forgotten, and tell them the many brothers and sisters in the free world are praying for them, and even give them a big hug. That’s encouragement, right? And on rare occasions, they were able to go to the prison to make noise, to make a protest. So we did have a few people who made a protest.

Interviewer: So your volunteers are doing that?

Pastor Bob Fu: Yes, yes.

Interviewer: Is it really safe for your volunteers to protest in front of the prison?

Pastor Bob Fu: If it is an American, a westerner, usually the Chinese government paid attention. Once they got to the prison office, at least it raised some awareness. Yes. Yes. The Chinese government, of course, wouldn’t jail those westerners, right?


Support for the Leaders

Interviewer: You also mentioned you provide legal aid to the leaders. What kind of legal aid are you providing to these people?

Pastor Bob Fu: We provide legal aid by hiring human rights lawyers for those prisoners of faith. Financially, we support those lawyers and support their travel to represent those persecuted pastors and the faithful. So that’s a part of the encouragement, it’s the second E.

The third E is equipping the leaders. I mean, basically, we engage in leadership training. We train those leaders with both biblical world view support and also the rule of law, legal training. We provide the tools for them to know what kind of constitutional and legal rights they have, so that when they are being interrogated, or when their church is being raided, at least they know their citizens’ rights, constitutional rights.


China Is Not Allowing True Religious Freedom

Interviewer: I saw your BBC interview with Mr. Victor Gao. That was very, very interesting because Mr. Gao stated that China has constitutional rights of religious freedom, but actually, he denied it afterwards because they are afraid of foreign infiltration, and there may be terrorism in China. So in China, in the Constitution, they defend religious freedom, right?

Pastor Bob Fu: Well, in Article 36 of the Chinese Constitution, it has that clause, saying Chinese citizens are guaranteed to have their freedom of religious belief. So it does not say explicitly religious freedom. They call it the freedom of religious belief. The CCP’s interpretation of that clause is, okay, you have your freedom to believe in your heart and at your private home, and you can’t really go out and manifest your beliefs. And so that’s under the Communist Party member, the military members — the young people are not allowed to believe because religion, they have been told that it cannot interfere with education, the government, or political affairs. So that’s the Communist Party’s interpretation of the constitution. It’s a very limited freedom; it’s not a true freedom. But at least in the letter of the law, they say you have freedom. So, I mean, even that freedom is not real. Right?

Interviewer: Why does the CCP prohibit people under the age of 18 from learning the bible or attending a bible study?

Pastor Bob Fu: Because the CCP perceives those who are under 18 are the successors of socialism and communism. So they are part of the party state possession.


The Chinese Government’s Sinicization of Religion

Interviewer: The Chinese government is trying to “Sinicize” religion. What does this word “Sinicize” mean?

Pastor Bob Fu: The so called sinicization in Chinese means Zhongguo Hua. Zhongguo Hua means you become more like a Chinese. So it’s different from the contextualization. Contextualization means if Christianity entered into China, then of course, the Chinese people can sing, can make these worship songs with Chinese rhythm, with Chinese songs.

But the sinicization is different; it’s called to make religion or Christianity compatible with socialism. That’s the removal of the core doctrine of your faith, and then change it to become part of the socialism construction. So in essence, the sinicization is to become more like a socialism religion.

Interviewer: How do they do that?

Pastor Bob Fu: Like they remove the cross from the rooftop of the church building in the name of sinicization. And also, they discourage the pastors to preach the core Christian doctrine called the justification by faith in Jesus Christ. Right? That’s Martin Luther, the reformation. That’s the essence of Christianity. Instead, they ask the preachers to preach — “Oh, you can go to heaven by learning from these Communist Party heroes, by doing good deeds. If you are doing good, then you can go to heaven. You don’t need to believe in Jesus.”

Interviewer: So you mean that the registered church pastors are teaching that new doctrine on a daily basis?

Pastor Bob Fu: That’s right. That’s called sinicization. So sinicization, in essence, is really to change Christianity to become part of the component of socialism. Essentially, it will destroy Christianity. That’s the real purpose.


Pastor Guo Bravely Opposed Sinicization

Interviewer: You cited the Joseph Guo case before at Breitbart News. He was a pastor of the registered church but opposed the CCP’s move to remove its church’s cross and asked to resign because of that.

Pastor Bob Fu: That’s right. He was just showing his disagreement with the CCPs forced demolition of the crosses, starting from his province, Zhejiang province. And it was directed by Emperor Xi Jinping and his subordinates. So for that, Pastor Joseph Guo was arrested and lost his ordination and couldn’t preach anymore and became a criminal and lost his freedom. I mean, that is a vivid example of how much religious freedom is limited and that even government sanctioned church pastors are being persecuted and imprisoned. Some pastors are still serving 12 years, 10 years imprisonment just for their defiance against the CCP’s policy of removing the crosses and destruction of the churches.

Interviewer: But Pastor Joseph Guo must have known that he would be jailed because he was a pastor of a registered church, but he was brave enough to voice his opinion against the CCP.

Pastor Bob Fu: I think he’s very courageous. He’s a very courageous pastor. I think we all admire him because he knew the danger and knew he would lose all the benefits within the government, lose all favor in the eyes of the Communist Party, and he still, out of his true faith and his good conscience, persevered. And I think he acted very, very courageously. So we all really supported him and admired him.


China’s Religious Oppression Is Backfiring

Interviewer: Considering the fact that even registered church pastors are acting in this manner, do you think the CCP can really control all the churches and curb the spread of Christianity?

Pastor Bob Fu: No, not at all. The CCP and their history has already proved when the Communist Party took power in 1949, China had less than 1 million Christians. And after the 60 years of non-stop persecution, torture, and even during the cultural revolution, even after the government-sanctioned church pastors were sent to a labor camp, today the number of Chinese Christians has reached 100 million. So that’s 100-fold growth [laughter], more than that of Communist Party members. So I think God is a humorous God, right?

Interviewer: Why is the number of Christian believers increasing so rapidly?

Pastor Bob Fu: Nothing but a miracle [laughter]. It’s the Holy Spirit. It’s God’s own work. So God wants to tell the Communist Party, “Well, the more you’ve persecuted my church, the more believers I will grow in my church.” And I think he’s laughing at these persecutors. And so I tell everyone, I say, “Okay, now Emperor Xi is about to launch another campaign to persecute the church.” I said, “By the end of the day, he will only help the church to grow faster and stronger. And maybe God, in the end, will call Emperor Xi his faithful servant in the opposite way.” Right?


The Communist Party is Cracking Down on House Churches

Interviewer: However, we see the CCP is stepping up its pressure on the House Churches. Are we going to see more churches demolished and crosses being removed from churches over the next four to five years?

Pastor Bob Fu: Absolutely. We already have seen an increasing crackdown after this newly revised religious regulation that took effect on February 1st.

There are many provinces starting up the enormous campaign to remove crosses even from believers’ homes. They confiscate bibles in Zhejiang and hundreds of thousands of House churches were ordered to shut down. Even in Beijing, the Chaoyang district, the Communist Party issued a document and started investigating every House church in that district and prepare for a major crackdown. So there will be much, much more persecution ahead of us. But as I said, the Lord will always triumph. He is a victorious Lord and his church will never be defeated. And even physically, we can be bound, but the word of God cannot be bound. Amen.


Religious Freedom Lies at the Heart of Liberty

Interviewer: You have been defending religious freedom all your life. Could you please tell us, why do you think religious freedom lies at the heart of liberty and any other freedoms?

Pastor Bob Fu: Religious freedom is known as the first freedom among all other freedoms, because if you don’t even have the freedom for your conscience to believe from your heart, to choose your core fundamental conviction of your life and world view, how could you talk about freedom of assembly, freedom of press, and freedom of association? And because this is the most fundamental freedom, right? It’s about the essence of a human being because we are created in the image of God, right? So every human being is a human being created to worship. So, you either worship, of course, a true God, or something else.

Interviewer: A true God or something else?

Pastor Bob Fu: Yes, but even something else, you should be allowed to freely choose and believe, not subject to state coercion, not subject to the government telling you what to believe, what not to believe, and which part of your belief is legitimate and which part of your belief is called an “evil cult” according to the Communist Party. So government has no business in telling an individual citizen what to believe, what not to believe, which part of your belief is true or is legitimate or which part is illegitimate. So it is a purely – this is a freedom that really is a God-given freedom. So even though government can send us to prison, even, according to the bible, can destroy our body, they cannot destroy our soul. And they can bind and bond us physically with chains, but they cannot bind our heart. Right? So when I was in prison, I couldn’t move to build a freedom movement. I couldn’t really teach or go somewhere else. I couldn’t really have association with something else. I lost all my other freedoms. But religious freedom is in my heart. I still have freedom to worship God even in the dark prison. Even when they torture you, you still can worship God. I think that is a real kind of inalienable right that no government can take away. And everyone should fight to have this freedom and also to protect the freedom of others because if you believe in Buddhism, you believe Islam, you believe Falun Gong, you believe anything, I can’t disagree with you. I can, as a Christian, in the doctrine, in our faith, but I should protect and advocate for your freedom to believe and to express your belief. So, we can debate who is more reasonable, which faith kind of makes more sense, but that’s a public debate, it’s an open debate, and done peacefully. And so no government and no organization should really use coercive force to kind of get rid of your freedom or to impose their faith or their belief, like the Communist Party tried to impose atheism into all their party members, into all the Chinese students, and into all the military members so they have to believe in atheism. So that is an imposed belief. That’s not freedom.


Xi is Purging Christians from the Communist Party

Interviewer: I heard that even some of the Communist members follow the Christian faith. Do you know if there exist Christians among the Communist party?

Pastor Bob Fu: Oh, yes. I know a lot of them. I know a lot of them.

Interviewer: But they are prohibited from becoming a member, right?

Pastor Bob Fu: Emperor Xi is now launching a campaign to purge them. Within the Communist Party, they’re asking for members to re-register and to reveal their religious faith. So right now, there’s a major crackdown against the Communist Party’s members who are also religious believers, including many who are Christian believers.

Interviewer: So they must hide in order not to be found by the CPP, their boss?

Pastor Bob Fu: Yes, it is very hard though.


The World Should Demand that China Uphold Religious Liberty

Interviewer: You mentioned we are created in the image of God. On the other hand, the CCP believes the Hans ethnic ranks the highest among other ethnicities. We believers think that we are created in the image of God. Therefore, I think it’s important for allied nations who have faith in God, to do something based on this idea to fight against the CCP. What’s your view on this?

Pastor Bob Fu: Yes. I think, of course, the CCP’s whole religious policy is based on their worldview, a materialistic, atheistic worldview. So they believe in evolution. They believe they are the upper class, they are the super class. So they believe they have the right or authority or power to rule others, and even in the cruelest way. And so this, of course, is a struggle that all people of faith should fight. And certainly, the Communist Party, as I just mentioned, they have no authority to tell others what to believe and what not to believe.

And I think the lack of religious freedom is really a big shame. So the whole world really should demand the Chinese government to at least implement what their constitution has said in Article 36. And that’s the minimum.

Also, China, at least in public, as one of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, agreed with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. And in Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, it said very clearly, every human being should have religious freedom, the freedom to not only believe publicly and privately, but also to practice, manifest, their belief in private and in public. So this is a universal human right. It’s part of the international norms. And the CCP has at least agreed — but they’re not abiding; they’re not obeying.


Japan Should Help China Become a Democracy

Interviewer: Do you have any expectation of the Japanese people or the Japanese government?

Pastor Bob Fu: Well, Japan is a democracy, and the Japanese government has that commitment for religious freedom in Japanese society. So you do have religious freedom in Japan. And I think as a neighbor of China, as one of the major western nations who really pledged to adhere to international standards, Japan is in a better position to remind China and protest China’s religious freedom violations. And I’m a little disappointed that the Japanese government has not done as much as they should have done. And if Japan wants to have a peaceful neighbor, the best way is to help China to become a democracy, to become a nation that respects the rule of law.

Interviewer: Yes. I totally agree with you.

Pastor Bob Fu: Because if a nation is a democracy with a constitutional protection of religious freedom, rule of law, it’s much less likely to have a war with each other. So that is already a proven rule. But I think Japanese politicians, maybe having too much political calculation, do not really speak up boldly with these principles to the Chinese Communist regime.


Obama Just Talked, But Trump Is Standing Up For Religious Liberty

Interviewer: What’s your expectation on Donald Trump, President Trump?

Pastor Bob Fu: I think President Trump has already committed to religious freedom. He not only said repeatedly, both in private and in public, including in the State of the Union Address, but also, he has been doing a lot that has not even been reported. And so I have been kind of been interacting with the White House a lot and the State Department. I think he’s going to do a much better job than the previous administration. President Obama has talked a lot, but really didn’t practice much.

Yes. He talked a lot, but just talking. I think that was very disappointing.

Interviewer: So you are giving advice to the State Department?

Pastor Bob Fu: Yes, all the time. I was with Sam Brownback, the US Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom on Friday at his office. We had been very close friends for many years.


It Is a Mistake for the Vatican to Appease the Chinese Government

Interviewer: What’s your take on the Vatican stance to VSR to establish a new diplomatic relationship with the Chinese government?

Pastor Bob Fu: I think it’s a mistake. I think it’s a very regrettable mistake that the Vatican, out of some political naivety, is trying to implement to appease the Chinese Communist regime by making this deal, and it’s almost the equivalent of dancing with the wolf, with the Devil.

Interviewer: Are they going to sever ties with Taiwan?

Pastor Bob Fu: Sure. They will do that, yes. I think so. I think the Chinese regime — whatever way they got this deal — I think it’s an insult when so many Catholic Church believers and bishops are still under suppression, under persecution, and even one Bishop in Fujan province with his assistant, yesterday, were arrested and taken away. And he’s one of the two bishops that the Vatican appointed, but in order to appease the Chinese regime, the Vatican even asked them to step down. I mean, this is so ridiculous, and I can’t really think of any other Vatican kind of a government that would do this. So this is a betrayal to those many, many, Chinese Catholics and the true Catholic Church, and many martyrs under the Communist regime.

Interviewer: What will the implication be after they establish diplomatic relations with China?

Pastor Bob Fu: Well, according to the report, the agreement shows that the Chinese government agreed for the Vatican to appoint bishops after the Chinese government nominates them. So the Chinese Communist will make a list of nominees, and then the Vatican will have the decision to make the appointment. So, I mean, how could the Chinese government nominate somebody who is not regarded as an accomplice, as totally submissive to the Communist regime. And certainly, this is also a laughable arrangement.


The Catholic Church Will Reveal the Underground Catholics

Interviewer: I heard that 10 million of the Catholic Church’s faithful’s lists will be submitted to the CCP so that they would be subject to severance by the CCP. Is this true?

Pastor Bob Fu: Absolutely, because now the Chinese government can tell all the underground Catholics, “Look, your Pope said the Communist regime has the final authority to rule over you, and to nominate your leader.” So how could you continue to defy whatever was the Communist suppressive policy?

Interviewer: Is there any way to change the Holy See’s decision by having someone like Sam Brownback put pressure on the Pope?

Pastor Bob Fu: Well, I think so far, those many international Catholic leaders and political leaders have voiced their opposition and outrage, but it seems that the political section of the Vatican is determined to reach a deal to compromise what they’re doing.

Pastor Bob Fu: I’m so glad to talk with you, Hanako, yes. I hope maybe one day we can visit Japan.

Interviewer: I would like to invite you.

Pastor Bob Fu: May God bless you.

Interviewer: God bless you, too.

The Heroic Fight of Pastor Bob Fu for Religious Liberty in China:
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