Skip to main content

Culture Q&A

China Aid founder Bob Fu went from angry unbeliever to joyful jailed believer to advocate for the persecuted church in China.

A new creation

China Aid founder Bob Fu went from angry unbeliever to joyful jailed believer to advocate for the persecuted church in China

A new creation

China Aid founder Bob Fu went from angry unbeliever to joyful jailed believer to advocate for the persecuted church in China. (Ben Sklar/The New York Times/Redux)

Pastor Bob Fu founded in 2002 the China Aid Association, which provides legal aid to Christians in China. Born in China in 1968, he became a Christian and left China in 1996 when his wife continued an unauthorized pregnancy. Baker published last fall his autobiography, God’s Double Agent

Please tell us about growing up in China. My mom was a beggar walking village by village for years during the so-called “Great Leap Forward” time, instigated by Mao Tse-tung, which resulted with some 30 to 40 million deaths. By God’s grace she survived. I was born in 1968 and grew up in a very poor village. 

What’s your earliest memory? Extreme poverty and extreme injustice. Because of my mom’s longtime begging food on the road she had lung disease. Every day she coughed and coughed. My sister and I went to a local doctor’s home, begging the doctor to come out to rescue our mom, and the door was just shut in front of our face. I still remember my sister and I kneeling in front of the doctor’s home begging the doctor to come out.

How did you become a fighter against injustice? In 1987 I was about to graduate from high school, and my dream was to become the first freely, democratically elected prime minister. I thought if you’re a political leader, you can make real change and help your family, yourself, and the country. 

Two years later in Tiananmen Square you had great hopes. That year millions of Chinese students launched a peaceful protest. I led the first demonstration from my university and led a group of former students to Beijing. We occupied part of Tiananmen with days and nights of protest.

But you had to leave Tiananmen because of your future wife. I had to leave three days before the massacre because my then-girlfriend, my wife now, was very sick and hospitalized. Early morning on June 4 the Chinese Communist Party sent its so-called People’s Liberation Army to massacre hundreds, if not thousands, of innocent citizens. I was interrogated day and night, writing confessions. It was a very hard time, and some of my friends betrayed me by telling lies in order to show their loyalty to the Communist Party. 

That must have been devastating. I was disappointed, disillusioned, and full of hatred. Then one night, I read a biography of a Chinese pastor, and later got my first copy of the Bible. These revolutionary words penetrated to my soul: “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.” That struck me the most because I was always looking to become a new creation, and I wanted to change my fellow classmates and buddies, but they turned against me. I realized: Who can become a new creation without the Creator Himself? And how could I change others without being myself first changed? 

You professed faith in Christ. And the next day, it was a new world for me. I was really like the crippled man told, “In the name of Christ, rise, and walk.” I was like that, dancing on the street and writing John 3:16 on the blackboard and every day after class trying to grab some students and professors to take to Bible study.

But trouble came. In China there is a saying that if you want to be a faithful follower of Jesus Christ and faithful minister of the Word, the first theological course you need to take is prison theology. My wife and I had to take the prison theology course in 1996, but it was a very short course, only two months. After I was forbidden to share the gospel individually in prison, I started to sing every day, and everybody would sing “Give Thanks to the Lord.” I was forbidden to do that so I started humming, and others started humming. 

You got out, managed to escape to Hong Kong and then the United States, and in 2002 formed China Aid: What was its original intent? To help channel financial and legal support to prisoners of faith and their families, and to the house church leaders when they are arrested. They need lawyers and also need financial support for the children’s education. Almost every night I got phone calls from China, a brother or sister crying out, saying, “Help us—they are coming!” I could hear the police knocking at the door. 

Now you get reports of persecution from all over China. What then do you do? We verify reports with people on the ground, and sometimes I engage directly with the security officers who were overseeing the arrest. I’ll give you an example: Last year, when a group of believers was arrested for singing Christian hymns in a public square, three Christian sisters were taken away to the police station. I got the cell phone number of the police chief, called him, and said we would make a major report, but if you release them I promise you we will not do this story. He was not even aware that his subordinate police branch had arrested these three sisters, and he said, “Give me a few hours.” These three sisters were released. 

So the persecutors want to do their dirty business in secret? They don’t like ... To be exposed.

I understand George W. Bush was helpful at times. Sometimes I contact the U.S. Embassy, State Department, the White House to ask for a diplomatic inquiry. One time a Chinese house church leader was arrested in Beijing for printing and distributing a few million Bibles without a permit. The prosecutor was ready to sentence for 15 years, but President Bush made a commitment to intervene, and the sentence was reduced to three years.

Has that very supportive attitude from the White House continued under the Obama administration? Unfortunately, not as much. It seems diplomatic intervention for these human rights issues is not on the high priority, and that has sent a very clear signal to the Chinese dictators that they can do as much as they want.

One time when you tried to have the Obama administration intervene, the attempt made things worse? Yeah, when President Obama visited Beijing, I read reports that he wanted to meet with human rights lawyers in China, so I helped spread the word and locate some. I was on the phone with the U.S. Embassy in Beijing, and said, “We have a group of human rights lawyers waiting outside the U.S. Embassy to be escorted in to meet with the president. Please facilitate.” But instead of the U.S. Embassy staff getting in these human rights lawyers, 500 Chinese military came out and roughed them up.

U.S. consular officials had informed the Chinese military? Who else knew? Or, somebody monitored the U.S. Embassy’s phone. Otherwise, how could anybody turn up so quickly at precisely that spot?