Liu Xiuzhi’s story begins, like many legal battles in China, over a property dispute with a powerful neighbor.
She says that when she won a civil case against the neighbor, he sent thugs to beat her up. They left her unconscious, several teeth knocked out of her lower jaw. At first, complaints to the local police were met with indifference, she says. Then anger.
So Liu started to petition. Following a centuries old tradition that started in dynastic China, Liu tried to take her grievances to local and national authorities. She says all she received was more beatings and humiliations.
“We are powerless people in China,” she says. “Either you have money in China and you have power or you are poor and you have none. I followed the law and I had to suffer.”
Over time, her petitioning became more overtly political. She started to display signs with slogans like “power and money rules in China” and “in China there is no justice and no equality.”
McKenzie goes on to say that China’s state security finally lost its patience with Liu’s campaigning and charged her under a provision for “hooliganism, prostitution, theft and fraud” that landed her in the Xi An Re-education Through Labor Jail in southern Beijing. The “re-education” system allows state security agents to arrest offenders for up to four years without trial. The government admits tens of thousands of prisoners are held in those centers. At least some of them are political dissidents.
Ben Booker points out at BreakPoint that those dissidents include Christian prisoners of conscience and that a movement to reform China’s labor camps is growing:
Christianity can be a major boon to this effort. By advocating the self-worth of individuals and the importance of love and justice, the Church can be a boon to humanitarian efforts to correct for this grave injustice. The prospect is terrifying though. Chinese Christians face daily persecutions for their beliefs and may even find themselves in these re-education camps. On strict political terms, the advantage lies with the government. They hold political authority and the backing of the police and military establishment. That does not mean Christians should shy away from engaging in the political discussion, but it does present its own set of challenges that are not faced as readily by people in Western states. However, the Church is not limited to political confrontation to rectify these grave injustices brought forth on China. Rather, ministry is an avenue to social change.
Chinese Christians (I should say Christians in general) can combat injustices through evangelizing and spreading the gospel to others. The fields of social justice and evangelism can too often be separated in the minds of Christians (myself included) but where can true, lasting social justice come from beside the life-giving power of the gospel? The gospel changes the mindset from one focused on self-aggrandizement typified through the lust for power and control that the Chinese government has exhibited through its labor camps to one of sacrificial service in the name of Jesus’ glorification. Through this, real change can take hold as the principles that have shaped law and policy come to reflect Jesus’ ideas of grace and peace. These changes can be slow because it is a person by person effort, but it is rewarding since it imparts lasting change to individuals. These spiritually touched people can reform the content, character, and, most importantly, practice of the law.
This all seems far off to Christians here in the U.S., but the body of Christ must grieve with those who suffer, especially fellow Christians. This is not something to glibly sweep under the rug and believe it does not exist. It is happening, it is wrong, and something must be done.