USA (MNN) — United States lawmakers didn't let Chinese President Hu Jintao off the hook when it came to China's human rights abuses. According to reports, House Speaker John Boehner says those at the House meeting with the Chinese leader "raised our strong, ongoing concerns with reports of human rights violations in China, including the denial of religious freedom."
Jintao was in Washington for a state visit to talk about U.S.-China relations politically, socially and economically. Unfortunately, many believe the Chinese president side-stepped the issues. That concerns many organizations concerned about religious freedom in China.
President of Open Doors USA Carl Moeller says, "The rights of Christians in China have been routinely disregarded over the years."
In an interview with MNN's Ruth Kramer, he said, "Often in our rush to embrace China's economic opportunities, we fail to look at their just abysmal human rights record. Even today we know of at least dozens of Christian activists who are being held illegally in China and being prevented from using their voice to speak on behalf of human rights abuses."
According to Moeller, today's most well-known case is that of Christian lawyer Gao Zhisheng. "He has been held illegally, and actually we have documentation of his torture under Chinese arrest simply for speaking out on behalf of minority religious groups, including Christians, in China."
Zhisheng was initially seized by public security officials on Feb. 4, 2009. Shortly after his wife and two children fled China to seek asylum in the United States, Gao was held virtually incommunicado for more than a year before police staged his brief reappearance in Beijing last April 6. He again vanished on April 20 while in the company of Chinese police.
Open Doors is drawing attention to this case and others, "asking Christians to speak out on behalf of Chinese Christians who are suffering and to not forget that, while China has made great progress since the days of Mao Zedong, it is still a highly repressive regime and one of the worst human rights abusers by all nations."
Moeller says Christians can do something. He says believers spoke out about China's refusal to allow Christians to attend Lausanne 2010 in South Africa, and that embarrassed the country. "That embarrassment does force the government to do some things right, and I think that embarrassment still needs to be maintained as a tool for the American church."
With 11 percent of the U.S. debit held by China, the U.S. government has less negotiating power. Moeller still thinks China can be influenced. "If we continue to integrate it into our U.S. foreign policy at the highest levels — State Department and the President, then I think we can still see some good effect leveraging there."
In the meantime, Open Doors continues to aid Christians in the country. Moeller says Christians are persecuted when "their faith brings them into conflict with their government. Their government wants to control and restrict the growth of the church. But the Holy Spirit is not letting that happen. The church in China is growing remarkably. And Open Doors has the privilege of helping to equip that church in its growth."
Moeller says where there's persecution, there's growth. Pray that Christians will continue to be bold in their faith, have the resources they need to grow, and the support to affect that growth.