On Monday, authorities in the central Chinese province of Henan beat up and detained a Christian pastor, lawyers, and churchgoers after they tried to hold a Christmas service and highlight the detention of another pastor and his aides. Shenzhen-based pastor Cao Nan, who had arrived at the state-sanctioned church in Henan's Nanle county to conduct the ceremony for worshipers who had traveled from as far away as Shanghai, describes his treatment at the hands of local police in an interview with RFA's Mandarin Service:
Q: What happened when you arrived at the church on Monday?
A: I drove my car [into the church courtyard], and hooted the horn, but they wouldn't let me pass. They pulled open the car door and grabbed my hair, dragging on my clothes, and yanked me out of the car and beat me.
When they were done beating me, they carried me into the police station, where I stood up and began to leave, but they pushed me to the ground and held me there. They said I was resisting them, and they sprayed pepper spray into my face and they sprayed it in my eyes, then they sprayed it on all the cuts on my body.
That was so painful that I screamed like a pig at the slaughter. They sprayed many times. Even now, I daren't wash my face [for fear of the pain]. They locked me up for seven hours and gave me no food or drink, and they wouldn't let me go to the toilet.
Q: Did the police go through any legal procedures during your detention?
A: No. I was in a section behind some metal bars, like a cage...I sat on the chair and they locked the door. I called out, and they came running back in and sprayed me with pepper spray again. I tried to block it with my coat but they went and shut the door and left me sitting in a mist of chilli pepper spray in the room. I had pains in my heart; I still have them now.
Q: What was their reason for detaining you?
A: They said I didn't understand what was going on, and that we had all been cheated by the family of [Nanle pastor] Zhang Shaojie, that they had detained Zhang Shaojie for his crimes, and that they weren't suppressing Protestant worshipers. I told them that Zhang Shaojie was detained for petitioning after he tried to protect church property, and that this was a clear case of oppression of the church to get at its land.
Q: What happened to the other worshipers who were with you?
A: Some of the others...were forcibly dragged off to Anyang, where they bought them tickets to return home...They locked them up for about four hours. Then there were 17 other Christians who were detained along with me, making 18 including me. There were also several dozen of the congregation who we had got in touch with by phone. They took some of them down to the police station.
Q: What is your view of your beating and pepper-spray attack?
A: This shows that local government power is greater than the law. I hope that, with the support of Christians across China, the central government will be able to deal with these illegal actions according to law, and teach our local government a lesson, to make them respect the law in future and not oppress Protestant congregations.
Reported by Qiao Long for RFA's Mandarin Service. Translated by Luisetta Mudie.