As Chinese authorities continue to raid worship services, block Christian websites, and track down and punish Christian book buyers, Christians are returning to a World War II-era technology to spread the gospel:
“People tend to think of shortwave radio as antiquated technology,” says Voice of the Martyrs Korea Representative Dr. Hyun Sook Foley. “But shortwave radio broadcasting is actually experiencing a major upsurge in China.”
Representative Foley points to the increase in shortwave radio broadcasting in China by the world’s two largest radio broadcasters, the U.S. and Chinese governments.
According to Representative Foley, the Chinese government continues to be the world’s leading shortwave radio broadcaster. “China state radio transmits over 400 hours daily to its population via shortwave, with almost 200 different programs in five languages on a wide range of frequencies. China is also the largest producer of shortwave radios. Alibaba offers over 1,000 different models, and tens of millions of shortwave radios are sold annually in China.”
Representative Foley notes that the U.S. government considered reducing its shortwave broadcasting into China in the mid-2010s but instead decided to maintain and subsequently increase its shortwave program delivery. “There are now unprecedented levels of shortwave broadcasting by the U.S. government into China,” says Representative Foley.
A Voice of the Martyrs Korea staff member records a Chinese language shortwave broadcast. The ministry airs two shortwave radio broadcasts daily into China.
But it’s not only governments who are reviving shortwave radio use in China. It’s Christians.
Representative Foley’s organization, Voice of the Martyrs Korea, began broadcasting two daily shortwave radio programs into China in May 2022. The programs feature sermons from jailed Christian pastors like Early Rain Covenant Church Pastor Wang Yi, as well as lectures, readings from Chinese Christian books, and teachings on being a faithful witness to Christ in the midst of suffering.
According to Representative Foley, the organization receives regular contact from listeners verifying their ability to access the broadcasts. But Representative Foley says the best proof of the programs’ effectiveness is the consistent effort by Chinese authorities to jam the broadcasts.
“China is far too big for nationwide jamming of shortwave signals, so authorities target their jamming of our broadcasts to regions with large populations, like Beijing and Hong Kong,” says Representative Foley. “So, the farther away from those cities, the more fully received are our broadcasts.” But Representative Foley says that quick work by her organization’s engineering partners enables the organization to make slight adjustments to their frequency and work around the jamming efforts even in major cities. “Our broadcasts are being received across China every day, in spite of authorities’ best efforts to block them,” says Representative Foley.
A recording sent to Voice of the Martyrs Korea by a listener verifying access to the broadcast.
According to Representative Foley, not only has the tightening of China’s laws on religion played a role in the move to shortwave radio by her organization, but even more so China’s intensifying cyber-monitoring and use of a “social credit” system to control individual media use and to track down and punish individuals who purchase banned Christian books.
“In China, VPN use is tracked. Christians commenting on websites are tracked. Even Christians purchasing Christian books through stores and websites are tracked and punished,” says Representative Foley. “Christian shortwave radio broadcasts are now the only media through which Chinese Christians can safely and anonymously access Christian content every day. With tens of millions of shortwave radios sold annually in China, and the Chinese government itself broadcasting extensively on shortwave radio, it is simply impossible for them to know who is using shortwave radios to listen to Christian broadcasts. And since Christian shortwave radio broadcasts are mostly of sermons and other spoken audio content, the quality of shortwave is more than sufficient. This World War II-era technology is well suited to spread the gospel throughout China in the 21st century.”
Individuals interested in donating to Voice of the Martyrs Korea’s work in partnership with the house church Christians of China can visit www.vomkorea.com/en/donate or give via electronic transfer to:
KB Bank: 463501-01-243303
Account Holder: (사)순교자의소리
Please note “China” on the transfer