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China: Christian Faces Trial For Prayers On Tiananmen Anniversary

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(UCA News) — A Chinese Christian who was arrested after calling for prayers on the Tiananmen Square massacre anniversary last year faces a secret trial and potential jail term in the southern city of Guangzhou.

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Gao Heng, a member and volunteer of Guangzhou Bible Reformed Church, is due to stand trial on Feb. 11, reported China Aid, an international group led by Chinese exiles documenting human rights abuses and promoting religious freedom in China.

Since June last year, Gao has been imprisoned at Guangzhou Detention Center. He faces a charge of “picking quarrels and provoking trouble” — a common allegation to silence dissent in communist China.

His ordeal stems from his prayer requests on the 32nd anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre on June 4, 2021. On this day in 1989, the China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) carried out a deadly crackdown on weeks-long student-led protests in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square that left hundreds killed and thousands wounded.

To mark the day, Gao stood at a station of Guangzhou Subway Line 2 and held a placard that read: “June 4, pray for the country.”

He went missing the same night and his whereabouts was only known on June 7 when the church’s lawyer Wen Yu enquired about his location. An officer told Wen that Gao had been arrested on criminal charges. He was formally charged and shown arrested in mid-July after 37 days of detention.

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Lawyer Wen was allowed to meet Gao at Guangzhou Detention Center on June 12. Gao reportedly asked the lawyer to reassure his family, friends and fellow brothers and sisters of the church.

Huang Xiaoning, the pastor of Guangzhou Bible Reformed Church who has been assisting Gao’s family with their legal battle, said the family has been facing threats and pressure from national security agents. Under pressure from police, Gao’s father has refused to answer phone calls or to seek help from church members, China Aid reported.  

Pastor Huang said Gao is known as a gentle and humble person who is enthusiastic about preaching the Gospel and spreading Christian values. On Christmas night of 2020, after Chinese Communist Party (CCP) officials had ordered the cancellation of Christmas events, Gao joined Pastor Huang to share greetings with Christians and others on the streets.

Gao has been a critic of China’s one-child policy and engaged in anti-abortion campaigns and activism for justice in social and public life.

On International Children’s Day 2020, Gao moved around the streets and stood at subway stations with a sign reading “I am a Christian. I object to abortion. I object to abortion. A fetus also has a life. A good man shall not let his beloved woman have an abortion.”

Due to his activism, Gao was summoned by police in the past but was released quickly.

​On the anniversary of the Tiananmen tragedy, he posted his picture with a message on social media site Weibo. “People usually attributed the cause of all social sufferings to the ugliness of politics and social systems. The root cause, however, evolves from the sinful nature of human beings. In terms of sinful nature, no fundamental difference exists between us and decision-makers, directors and executors,” said the message translated to English by China Aid.

“Thank you, God. We are all sinners. But because of Your amazing grace, we have the opportunity to repent, accept Jesus Christ as our Savior, and become Your children,” he wrote.

Pastor Huang expressed his disappointment over the arrest and trial of Gao.

“A man who appeals to pray for his country is arrested by the country? It’s not a sin for Christians to pray! Christians can pray any day. Christians can pray everywhere. Please pray for Brother Gao Heng,” he said.

UCA News

The Union of Catholic Asian News (UCA News, UCAN) is the leading independent Catholic news source in Asia. A network of journalists and editors that spans East, South and Southeast Asia, UCA News has for four decades aimed to provide the most accurate and up-to-date news, feature, commentary and analysis, and multimedia content on social, political and religious developments that relate or are of interest to the Catholic Church in Asia.

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