When Bob Fu arrived in the United States in 1997 as a fugitive from China, he would have never dreamed that one day he and his family would be forced to leave for a safe house in this country because a threat had been made on his life. Guo Wengui, a Chinese billionaire in the US on a tourist visa and living in a Manhattan penthouse, built a following as a blogger under the alias “Miles Kwok.” Beginning in January he began to target Bob Fu and recently posted a message on YouTube openly calling on his followers to kill Bob Fu and others he listed on a “global kill cheaters” campaign, claiming Bob to be a communist spy.
This past week agitators showed up in front of Bob’s house every day as a reminder of the serious nature of the warning. Local law officials and the FBI moved Bob and his family to a safe house for their protection. His situation is another reminder that Communist China tries to silence dissidents even if they live in Midland, Texas.
This is not the first time Bob and Heidi have been targeted by the Chinese. They both became Christians after the Tiananmen Square massacre when Chinese soldiers killed innocent students in 1989. Bob believed he could work within the government framework and still share the gospel, but he soon learned the Communist Party would not tolerate his beliefs. During the day, Bob taught English to future Communist leaders, and in the evening, he trained leaders for the illegal church. Bob called himself “a double agent,” that later provided the name for his excellent autobiography, “God’s Double Agent.” Ultimately, Bob and Heidi both were sent to prison for their activities.
When they were released from prison, it wasn’t long before Heidi became pregnant with their first child even though they had not received permission from the government. Their only option to keep from aborting the baby was to flee China. After a courageous and miraculous escape from China, they arrived in Hong Kong, where they learned they could not get a visa for the US. The clock was ticking, because Hong Kong was on the verge of Britain transferring Hong Kong to China. Just after Heidi gave birth to their first child and days before the transition, Bob and Heidi were at McDonald’s when they were interviewed by a reporter from “ABC News with Peter Jennings.” He asked Bob about his opinion of the impending change in Hong Kong’s transition.
Bob boldly responded, “Actually I’m a religious dissident from China, and my family will certainly be arrested again for our Christian religious beliefs unless the United States government will act on our behalf.” He continued, “The countdown to the handover is a countdown to our imprisonment. Please America, stand up for religious freedom.Bob’s plea spread like wildfire across America and resulted in a letter from President Bill Clinton telling the US Consulate to let the Fu family go.
It would have been easy for Bob and Heidi to enjoy the freedoms of life in the US and never look back. Yet, their love for Christ and for their homeland motivated Bob to become one of the leading voices in America for religious freedom in China. Bob has made friends among faith leaders of all religions and has also become a friend to members of Congress and leaders of four administrations including several presidents. I have heard prominent Americans speak of Bob’s integrity, courage and humility. He and I joined a small group who met with Vice President Pence to share our concerns that human rights issues in China are worse now than any time since the Cultural Revolution. We spoke about the atrocities against the Uyghur Muslims of China and the Falun Gong, as well as the increased persecution of Christians.
Debra Fikes and the Midland Ministerial Alliance became friends with Bob and worked with Mid-Cities Church and others to relocate the family to Midland, where he would be much safer than in Philadelphia. Bob began to serve as an associate pastor at Mid-Cities while he continued to do advocacy work in D.C., as well as the UN and training house church pastors and human rights lawyers in the Asia-Pacific.
In April 2006, Fu invited seven Chinese human rights activists to Washington, D.C. During the visit, they met with President Bush at the White House. The group included the prominent Chinese human rights attorney, Li Baiguang and Chinese pastor Wang Yi. In 2017, just a couple of weeks after the national Prayer Breakfast in D.C. that Li attended, we were saddened by the news that Baiguang had died in a Chinese hospital of liver failure. In a Reuters article by Christian Shepherd, on Feb. 26, 2018, Li’s death was described as suspicious since he had been healthy and never drank alcohol. Former Congressman Frank Wolf said he and Bob had met with Li just a week before he died and he showed no signs of illness. On Dec. 30, 2019, Wang Yi was sentenced to nine years in prison. He was the pastor of the Early Rain Covenant Church and had been arrested a year earlier with dozens of other church leaders.
Bob knows the cost that comes to those who stand up to an oppressive government like China. Li Baiguang and Wang Yi are only two of a long list of friends of Bob Fu who have suffered and continue to suffer for their faith. What the Uyghur people in Northwest China are experiencing in China is the Holocaust of our day. The plight of Christians and other religious minorities are not far behind. Under the leadership of President Xi Jinping, the Chinese Communist Party seeks to control all aspects of life. Internet firewalls are built to keep information away from their own citizens. Prisons are filled with good people who seek only to live lives of peace and prosperity.
Bob has been confronted with the two temptations of being silenced by evil people as well as being seduced by powerful people. While some bask in the favor of presidents and senators, accommodating the leaders’ agendas for a photo op, or withdrawing from engagement with injustice, Bob stands strong, honest, courageous and humble.
Bob’s statement to the ABC reporter in Hong Kong needs to be heard today. “Please America, stand up for religious freedom.” Stand up to the tyranny of China. Stop allowing our government officials who leave office to work for law firms that support companies controlled by the Chinese Communist Party. Stop buying products from companies that benefit from the forced labor of prisoners in China. Stop taking our religious freedom in the US for granted.
One day while I was the pastor of First Baptist Church in Midland, I received a call from Congressman Frank Wolf of Virginia who asked me what it would take to wake up the church in America to the persecution of Christians globally. Shortly after that conversation Michael Horowitz, a prominent attorney from the D.C. community came to Midland and spoke with me about the urgency of the Western church to respond to the persecution of Christians. Both spoke how Bob Fu and ChinaAid were models of engagement with the persecuted in China.Our organization, 21Wilberforce was born from those conversations.
Michael Horowitz said, “The Chinese regime understands that the spread of religious faith and a principle-based legal system in China threatens its very survival as nothing else does. As the person who defends, defines and inspires the tens of million brave house church Christians of China, and quietly supports China’s human rights attorneys, Bob Fu is thus a critical history-shaper for generations to come.”
Reprinted with permission. This opinion editorial written by Dr. Randel Everett appeared in the Midland Reporter-Telegram.