Hao Guiru’s fiancée is a Christian from Guangdong province. She was so attracted to Hao Guiru’s devotion to his Christian faith that she moved 1,500 kilometers to Chengdu in Sichuan Province to date him.
But as Voice of the Martyrs Korea Representative Dr. Hyun Sook Foley explains, Hao Guiru’s Christian devotion goes far beyond Bible reading or prayer.
“Hao Guiru is a member of Early Rain Covenant Church, a group legally banned by the Chinese government and the constant target of some of the most severe persecution in the world since its pastor, Wang Yi, was arrested along with more than 100 church members on December 9, 2018,” says Representative Foley.
So it was not surprising for Hao Guiru’s fiancée to be waiting for him outside a police station on a recent Sunday morning.
“One day before, on Saturday October 28th at 10 AM, more than thirty Early Rain Covenant Church believers held a graduation ceremony for the church’s ‘servant college’ in a hotel’s conference room,” says Representative Foley. “Suddenly, over twenty national security agents, police, staff of the government Religious Affairs Bureau, and community workers broke into the room. They interrupted the ceremony and claimed the gathering was illegal. Everyone attending was required to register their personal information.”
According to Representative Foley, witnesses report that one national security agent scolded all the Christians aloud and called them traitors. “He said he wanted to catch all of them and parade them through the street,” says Representative Foley.
Hao Guiru and his fiancée embrace upon his release from the police station after being held overnight in connection to a graduation event at embattled Early Rain Covenant Church in Chengdu.
Representative Foley says that police transported nine of the Early Rain Covenant Church leaders—E lder Li Yingqiang, preacher Ding Shuqi, deacon Jia Xuewei, and six other co-workers, including Hao Guiru—to area police stations. “Many believers and family members were waiting outside the police stations for news,” says Representative Foley. “At around 2 AM, police came out and told them that Ding Shuqi, Jia Xuewei, and Hao Guiru would not be released that night. So the church members had no choice but to go home.”
In the morning, Hao Guiru’s fiancée returned to the police station to wait for Hao’s release. “At around 10 AM, the three Early Rain Covenant Church leaders were released,” says Representative Foley. “Hao Guiru met his fiancée outside of the police station, and they hugged each other and burst into tears as onlookers greeted them with applause.”
Then, says Representative Foley, the couple and the other released leaders did what they always do on Sunday mornings.
They went to church.
“All nine of the Early Rain Covenant Church believers who had been arrested shared their difficult experiences in the police station with the Early Rain Covenant Church congregation, but they also shared how they witnessed God’s grace,” says Representative Foley. “Deacon Jia Xuewei had been taken into the police station bathroom and violently assaulted by an officer there. The officer kept beating Deacon Jia up until other police eventually stopped him.” Representative Foley says that Preacher Ding Shuqi was dragged and beaten up when police took him away.
Early Rain Covenant Church leaders being transported to a police station after authorities disrupted a graduation of the church’s Servant College on October 28.
Still, says Representative Foley, Hao Guiru and his fiancée, as well as the other recently released detainees, remain resolute in their faith and undeterred by the October 28 crackdown. Representative Foley shared a prayer which the church published during the event:
“The Lord’s love is in China, the Lord’s love is in Chengdu, the Lord’s love is in the fall rain, and the Lord’s love is among us. During these five years of great persecution, although the synagogue was blocked and the pastor was imprisoned, brothers and sisters were fruitful in patience and gladly equipped themselves to serve the church. Pray that the Lord would watch over each of the brothers and sisters who were taken to the police station, and give them courageous hearts, which You have given them for their graduation, to see the Eternal Savior in the midst of persecution and fire. Pray also for mercy on our nation and government officials, who continue to persecute the Lord Christ and His Church, not realizing that this is the only way of life that can save them from death.”
Early Rain Covenant Church is among the most internationally well-known house churches in China. Initially led by the now-imprisoned Pastor Wang Yi, the church has continued to uphold his vision of worshipping God in public. The church established the “Prisoners of Conscience Fellowship” and set May 12 to June 4 annually as the “Prayer for the Nation Month”, which Representative Foley says increased the church’s visibility to the government. “Police would station themselves at the entrance to their building to prevent believers from entering,” says Representative Foley. “In other instances, authorities staked out the homes of important members to prohibit them from leaving their homes.”
Christians pray outside a police station October 28 while waiting for the release of arrested leaders from the Chengdu Early Rain Covenant Church.
In August 2018, Pastor Wang Yi drafted “A Declaration for the Sake of the Christian Faith”, the text of which can be read in multiple languages at www.chinadeclaration.com, a site maintained by Voice of the Martyrs Korea. “Pastor Wang Yi wrote it in response to the Chinese government’s implementation of the so-called Religious Affairs Regulations which took effect in February 2018,” says Representative Foley. “He called on other Chinese pastors to come forward, publicly state their beliefs, sign the statement, and refuse to sign the new religious regulations.”
On December 9, 2018, more than one hundred Early Rain Covenant Church elders and co-workers were arrested. Pastor Wang Yi was arrested and charged with “inciting subversion of state power” and “illegal business operations”. The Chinese government sentenced him to nine years in prison in December 2019, confiscating his personal assets and suspending his political rights for three years.
Representative Foley says that since the crackdown on Early Rain Covenant Church began nearly five years ago, police have continued to harass church leaders and members. “Officers stand outside their homes, follow them, disperse their gatherings, and monitor them closely,” says Representative Foley. “Last year, authorities even disrupted a wedding for two of the church’s members by forcing the wedding venue to cancel at the last minute.”
Early Rain Covenant Church Preacher Ding Shuqi and Deacon Jia Xuewei walking out of the police station after being detained overnight on October 28, along with Hao Guiru.
To this day, says Representative Foley, the persecution has not ceased against Early Rain, but neither has the church’s public worship. “The church members continue to evangelize and host worker trainings, leading to events like the servant college graduation that was recently disrupted,” says Representative Foley. “Many other Christians, like Hao Guiru’s now-fiancée, have even been attracted to the church’s faithful witness in the face of persecution and have moved to Chengdu to join them.”
According to Representative Foley, Hao Guiru’s fiancée appears to have found exactly what she was looking for: a man and a church prepared to pay the price for their devotion to Jesus.
Individuals interested in learning about or supporting Voice of the Martyrs Korea’s work in partnership with persecuted Christians in China can visit www.vomkorea.com/en/china or give via electronic transfer to:
KB Bank: 463501-01-243303
Account Holder: (사)순교자의소리
Please note “China” on the transfer.