A week earlier, on Feb. 14, Xu and the wives of three other imprisoned Early Rain members met with representatives of the German Consulate in Chengdu to talk about about their situation. The next day, local police detained and interrogated each of them about what they said in the meeting, who they met, and what type of assistance the diplomats offered, according to the Texas-based China Aid.
During that interrogation, according to a church update, a national security officer said: “Too bad we can’t go back in time 40 years and put dunce hats on them and behead them.” He added that they would kill them sooner or later. The women were released the next morning.
During last December’s crackdown, police took four children away from another Early Rain church member who had fostered the siblings for more than a year. Police sent the siblings to live with relatives in a town in Sichuan province. Recently, the foster mother went to visit the children, only to find that the relatives had not kept their promise to keep the four children together, but instead have split them up to live with different families.
A Feb. 21 church update ended with a passage from the book of Revelation describing the heavenly picture of a multitude of people in white robes who have experienced great tribulation. The update read, “Even though we are struggling with the unbearable weight of harassments, surveillance, threats, and humiliation, as soon as we remember that this is a way of being imprisoned with those in prison, heavenly joy rises up within us.”
‘It’s hopeless but you persist’
Former Chinese Business View writer Jiang Xue was once one of the most influential investigative journalists in China. She quit her position as editor of the publication’s opinion page in 2014 over concerns about censorship, but kept writing profiles of people who resist. Now she can only post her articles on her WeChat page, where censors quickly delete them, or in the Hong Kong magazine The Initium—but that publication is collapsing as it runs out of money.
In a New York Review of Books interview, journalist Ian Johnson asks if she will continue to write these pieces even if they can’t get published. Her response: “Yes, I just write them anyway. I feel I have to write them. As an independent journalist, if I think it’s important, I can write; so I do. In the past, you were always being told you can’t write about this or that. Now, I can write.”
—This story has been updated to remove an incorrect name given for Wang Yi’s mother, to correct the day she was attacked, and to correct the name in the second photo caption.