Editor’s note: This letter is from an expectant mom whose husband is in jail for tithing to his house church. In her powerful plea, she outlines the injustice her husband has faced, and pleads for him to be released and return home soon.
This letter has been edited and condensed for clarity and length
A Sudden Blow
My husband is local to the area, where he grew up in a Christian family. From the first day we met, I knew he was kind and warm, a man of integrity. We went to college together, and after graduation, got married. We started a family and a business. Our life is gradually improving. Although we are not rich, we are content, and feel no lack. We now have a 3-year-old daughter, and I am currently almost nine months pregnant with our second child. We were joyfully awaiting that baby’s arrival. My husband worked even harder than before, and took good care of me and our family.
But this autumn, our peaceful life was shattered. One day, my husband was forcibly taken away by police officers from the local branch of the Public Security Bureau. This happened at his workplace. The next day, I received a notice of “residential surveillance at a designated location.” [This charge allows authorities to hold suspects for up to six months at black jails, and to deny them access to a lawyer. It is a type of secret detention.] A week later, my husband was placed under criminal detention. Now he is facing arrest for “fraud.” The reason for all this? My husband merely attended Christian gatherings as a believer, and gave tithes.
“Residential Surveillance at a Designated Location”
I was shocked when I got this notice of his detention. Is my husband a “fraudster”? Who did he defraud? How did he do that? Where has he been detained? In order to find out what really happened, I hired a lawyer to defend him.
Would You Pray With Us Today?
Two mornings after he was arrested, the lawyer went to the law enforcement agencies to find out the details of the case. He also requested to meet with my husband. The lawyer objected, both verbally and in writing, to my husband’s “residential surveillance at a designated location.” The local branch of the Bureau explained residential surveillance was necessary due to quarantine from the pandemic. After the pandemic calmed down, my husband would be sent to a detention center. But our lawyer did not agree with this explanation. He thought that this enforcement was illegal.
Although I was not familiar with the law, I was lucky to have the Internet. Through searching, I gained some legal knowledge. Article 75 of China’s “Criminal Procedure Law” clearly states that “residential surveillance at a designated location” is only to happen in two situations; if the suspect does not live locally; or if the crime involves national security or terrorist activities.
My husband’s case fits neither of these situations. Our family has a fixed residence downtown. When I received the notice of his detention, it had our home address on it, which means the Public Security Bureau knows our residence. Second, the alleged fraud in my husband’s case is certainly not a crime endangering national security or involving terrorist activities. As it does not comply with the law, my husband’s “residential surveillance at a designated location” is illegal. The Public Security Bureau is a law enforcement agency, but are they knowingly breaking the law? Is the pandemic an excuse for not following the law?
I read online that the legal rights of suspects detained using residential surveillance cannot be fully protected during interrogation, as the police investigation will not be effectively supervised. Our lawyer filed several written complaints. After a week, we received a letter from the district confirming it was illegal to place my husband under “residential surveillance at a designated location.”
Did They Want to Hide Something?
“Residential surveillance” is essentially a restriction on lawyer visitation. This proved true in my husband’s case. When our lawyer went to the bureau and asked to meet with my husband, the agency who was handling the case refused his visitation on the grounds of pandemic quarantine.
According to the law, my husband’s lawyer has the right to visit him. For what reason would the agency prevent him from visiting? Did they want to hide something? Is there something they do not want the lawyer to know? Thinking about this, I became even more worried about my husband’s situation. Our lawyer filed several written complaints, and after a few days, he received a letter confirming that the local branch had illegally restricted his visitation, violating the attorney’s practicing rights. The letter ordered the case-handling authorities to correct themselves.
Tithing Is Not Fraud
I checked the criminal law for the People’s Republic of China. The law defines “fraud” as the act of illegally obtaining possession by using fabricated facts or concealing the truth, or in order to deceive and obtain a large amount of property. My husband did not cheat other Christians. He also never illegally possessed other people’s money. Not only did he not cheat others out of money, but he also donated a portion of his own income.
The Christian faith teaches us to give. Christians understand the nature of giving, and their donations are completely voluntary. Tithing is a 2,000-year-old tradition within the church, and is practiced by Christians all over the world. How is this illegal and criminal?
Will He Be Treated Justly?
I am also a Christian. The Bible teaches Christians to respect the authority of the government, and to pray for those who are in high positions. But now I am overwhelmed with worries because of my husband’s case. Not only am I worried because of the charges against him, but also because of the way public security authorities are handling the case. They have used so many practices that are not in accordance with the law. Will my husband be treated justly?
I am now more than 8 months pregnant. There is only about a month left before I go into labor. I am also taking care of our 3-year-old daughter alone. During my daughter’s birth, I went through a very dangerous situation and had to deliver her by cesarean section after I failed to deliver her naturally. After that, I had an ectopic pregnancy. Now I am expected to have a cesarean section to deliver our second child. My husband is detained and not by my side. He is unable to accompany me through this most difficult and dangerous time.
I hope this case will draw more attention, and that he will come home to us soon.
Li Zhiyu is a pseudonym for the wife of a Christian man imprisoned on charges of fraud for tithing to his church. She and her husband have a young daughter, and she is currently expecting her second child.
FOR PRAYER AND REFLECTION