My China Exile Story (1)
Here intruders come
This article is an autobiographical record of the exile from China of missionary Yong-Sun CHO who was arrested by Chinese “national security (Guer Bao 国保)” agents from January 5th to 18th of 2018. This article describes the exile process of missionaries from China, which took place just before church gathering disappeared in almost every church in China in early February 2020 due to the severe religious oppression of the Chinese Communist regime. Currently, Chinese underground church members cannot gather in church buildings but have services in their own houses. <Editor>
Around 3:00 pm on January 5, 2018, something I only imagined for the last 18 years happened. I desperately wanted it not to happen, but I had to stop missionary works in the mainland of China. When agents of National Security Agency (國家保衛), in short also called Guer Bao (国保) agents, came to my house, I experienced things that I never had before.
Three men came to the house, one man who looked like in his fifties and two young agents. They called me with a strange phone number before their visit.
“Are you Mr. Cho? We are going to visit your house soon.”
At the moment, my heart dropped and I felt like everything stopped. The time that I had prayed not to come for 18 years finally came. I hid the Bible and hymns. I took off all the crosses on the wall. I also removed the name of the church which was attached to the podium. While removing the church name board, I cut my finger. I was bleeding but did not have time to take care of it. I moved quickly so that the house would not be seen as a house church. However, the agents came to the door before I could remove all things.
When they first asked me to open the door, I could not make any noise. At the moment, I thought “Should we pretend as if we were not in the house?” But I understood that it would not solve the problem. I opened the door when they told me to open the door for the third time. I asked them why they visited the house. They stepped into the living room, saying there was something to investigate.
The old man asked me. “Why did you come to China? What do you do for a living? If you are working, show me your business card! Why are there so many books in the house?” At first, I made things up but then I couldn’t lie. As I was stupefied, he told me. “Mr. Cho, aren’t you a pastor? We all know. Do you think we are ordinary policemen? If you admit that you are a pastor, we will just investigate. But, if you don’t, we will go through this house.” I couldn’t try any more to get out of the situation. Discouraged, I admitted that I am a pastor.
The older agent told my wife to come out as well. But he saw my wife coughing with a bad cold and saw a tent in the room because of the cold weather. He asked me what disease my wife had. I said that my wife had thyroid and breast cancer surgery and now she was sick in bed with a bad cold. The agent excluded my wife from the investigation and decided to investigate only me.
He asked me “When did you come to China? What church in Korea is supporting you? What activities do you do as missionary works?” The way of asking questions of the agent was very clever. How he asked me questions showed two aspects. He pretended that he accidently knew about me, and the way of him asking questions gave me the impression of telling me not to lie since he knew everything. I was very confused how to answer. I felt that I was being tested. He was testing whether I was telling the truth or not.
I told him some basic things as they were. It was like a captive soldier saying his name and soldier number. At that time, in my mind I continued thinking, ‘How can I protect the Chinese church members?’ There were some church members who I should not give their names to the agent at any cost and I was thinking about that while I was being investigated.
“How can we protect our Chinese church members?”
One of the agents asked me “Is your ministry for college students?” I answered “No.” I just said that I worshiped on Sunday with some Chinese members. He wrote “Preached to some Chinese” on a sheet of paper for the investigation. But at that time, I was not clear-headed and did not understand what he was asking. Later when my mind was cleared, I thought that he knew everything. At the beginning of my mission, I contacted and taught many college students. The ministry for college students took place in the beginning of my missionary period in China and lasted for about 10 years.
The agent said.
“It is our first time to see in person, right?”
I was so nervous at the time that I could not understand him properly. But he knew about me. He said he knew me for a long time but he did not exile me from China.
The agent told me to relax. Maybe my face was so nervous. He asked me for a cup of coffee. I boiled water and prepared coffee. I asked him if he would drink dark coffee or light coffee. He wanted to drink dark coffee. I also asked the two young agents what they would like to drink. They just wanted to drink hot water which is pronounced “Kaishui (开水).” I also had a cup of coffee for myself. Unexpectedly, the atmosphere changed while we were talking over coffee. It wasn’t heavy atmosphere of the investigation but it became like the atmosphere where people who have known for a long time meet and talk.
They told me that they knew everything that I was doing, and talked about area D. I said that the work in the area was not related to me. I said that I needed a visa to stay in China and I am only registered as an employee in a paper company. I said that a person in the company who entered North Korea as a missionary was not related to me. However, the agent told me like this.
“The reason that you are investigated is because you preached to Chinese people, thus do not say anything else.”
At that moment, I thought, ‘What is this?’ The agent who came to investigate me was not going to investigate thoroughly and he was telling me that only my preaching to Chinese people was a problem. He even didn’t ask names of the Chinese church members attending Sunday service. I noticed his intentions. I didn’t know why, but he was minimizing the problem for me. When the agents were about to leave, the old agent told me “Mr, Cho, some people from the Public Security Department (公安厅) will visit you again but do not say anything else and only answer to the same question that I asked. Do you understand?”
I said yes. And he added a word to me. He told me I could run away but then while I was alive, I will not be able to enter China again.
I dropped them off in front of the elevator. In China, people can use an elevator when they have a key card for the elevator. I was going to tap my elevator card to the card reader for them but it wasn’t necessary. The agents already had a key card. I said “See you later” to them but then I thought ‘Did I need to say that?’ It took a little while before the elevator doors completely closed. If I had not said anything, I could have felt awkward.
After an hour later from the time the agents went back, the agent who looked like in his fifties called me and told me to meet in front of the the police station which is called “Banshi dating (办事大厅)” at 9 AM on Monday. I said yes. <To be contined.>
Missionary Yong-Sun CHO | A member of Global Mission Society (GMS). After he was expelled from China, he has been continuing mission for China on the Internet and he teaches students at World Mission Seminary.