How China’s Surveillance State Targets Christians Like Ming
Under the watchful eye of China’s Surveillance State. In a dark alley, Ming* loads the heavy boxes into the trunk of his car.
He knows the authorities in China would not be pleased with the boxes’ contents—and he knows if he is caught, he’ll be arrested and probably sent to prison.
Ming pulls out his phone and texts his contacts. “I’m on my way to the old place,” he types. Then he turns off his phone and removes the SIM card so his location can’t be tracked.
What he’s doing could be considered a crime by the authorities. But what he’s loading his car with isn’t dangerous or going to ruin lives. His criminal cargo is Bibles.
And his mission is to give God’s Word to as many people as quickly and discreetly as possible.
Even in his text messages, Ming is careful. “The old place” is code. In the region of China where Ming is from, citizens’ phones are monitored, and their social media apps are highly controlled—any wrong word could cost him whatever freedom he has left.
Ming knows all about the danger. He has been arrested before for doing the work of God in this severely restricted area.
He looks behind him as his breath fogs up in the cold air. No one is watching—except for the street cameras that are everywhere in China. With one final look around, he pulls away, into the night, his precious cargo in tow.
Testing Ming’s Faith
Ming’s path toward becoming a secret believer in China wasn’t easy. He comes from a part of China where even hearing about the gospel can be difficult because the surrounding community has a different faith. In China, persecution can look very different from place to place. With such a huge geographic area, and so many ethnic groups, following Jesus can be somewhat free in one area, yet heavily restricted in another.
And where Ming lived was one of the most restrictive. The first time he encountered persecution for his faith was at home.
“I received Christ when I was in college,” he says. “I told my father about my faith and hoped he could accept me, but he did not accept me and reported me to the police. I was devastated that we could not reconcile.”
Ming was confined to his home for a few months. Even after that, his father prevented him from attending school in their area. And so, Ming was forced to relocate to a city in southern China, where he had to start from scratch.
“It was a pity that I could not finish college,” he says, “But I was too young to process the whole thing at that time.”
For a teenager with his ethnic background, starting over in a completely new city could have been extremely difficult. Yet, the Lord blessed his decision. Over the years, Ming was able to take root in this new place—he felt freer because the restrictions from both community and government weren’t so tight. And there were several good churches that welcomed him.
In time, Ming became a business owner and earned a good income—much more than what was expected of someone from his ethnicity and stature. He also fell in love with and married a beautiful woman, Hua*. They built a home and had a daughter, Mei Mei*.
At church, Ming grew deeper in his faith in Jesus. “It was there where I learned much more about Christ and how good God is,” he shares. “This was also the turning point for me. Learning about Jesus has made me realise that my friends and community back home needed Him, too.”
The Lord touched Ming and placed a burden on his heart, and prompted him in a still, small voice: “Go back to your hometown. Tell people about Me there.”
Ming obeyed. He gave up everything he owned and moved back home—back to the city with all the restrictions, where the authorities ruled with an iron fist and neighbours were made to spy on each other. In faithful obedience, Ming returned to a vulnerable spot, where his each and every move was observed, catalogued, and filed away, to be used against him if necessary.
Still Under Surveillance
It wasn’t long before Ming began making new connections in his hometown. He started leading small groups secretly, meeting believers in inconspicuous places to study the Word of God. It was exciting to be opening the Scriptures with others.
Ming set up a new company with a group of other believers—it also served as a cover business so he could deliver Bibles. The business thrived for some time, but the day came when it was exposed. Ming and his business partners were arrested. Miraculously though, he was set free. His business partners weren’t so fortunate. And they had lost the cover that Ming and his fellow believers had worked so hard to set up.
“I was freed from all charges, but I lost my company,” Ming remembers. “I had mixed feelings because I knew it would be harder to dodge the police, and I’d have to live even more cautiously. I also feel terrible for my friends. However hard it is for me to swallow, I believe it’s God’s will that not all of us were jailed so that one of us could return and ‘clean up the mess.’”
But even out of jail, Ming was still being watched—forced to stay under the authorities’ radar. Since getting out of prison, authorities still randomly show up and search his house. At first, it happened every two-to-three months. Now, they search his place once a year.
On top of his legal troubles, Ming’s family life crumbled. For their protection, he sent his wife and daughter back to his in-laws’ home. “I was living under the radar and needed to protect my family,” he says. “Because of my belief in Jesus, my father-in-law prevented me from seeing my wife and daughter. Now, he’s pushing my wife and I to divorce.”
“This has left me speechless, but I can understand why. My wife has no say on this since my father-in- law is the head of her family. He is a man with strong authority. And I also don’t want my wife and children to suffer.”
No One To Trust
The arrest, the loss of his business, and the conflict with his wife’s family have all taken their toll on Ming. After everything he’s been through, he has lost his trust in people. He knows that community members reporting on one another is prevalent in his area—and that the government encouraged this by offering incentives for information.
“I had no one to trust,” Ming says. “I felt insecure and isolated.”
When you give a gift to Open Doors, you support believers like Ming—Chinese Christians who risk everything to give people access to God’s Word. Your prayers and support help Ming and other Christians to stand strong, even as they go through incredibly difficult circumstances. Open Doors partners are coming alongside Ming, and your continued support will help him as his ministry resumes, even as he walks a very fragile tightrope.
Ming is grateful for Brother Hao Ran*, an Open Doors local partner who has been praying with him, discipling him and journeying with him in his struggles.
“Brother Hao Ran is trustworthy,” Ming says. “He is someone I can do life with. He visits me on a regular basis and has been mentoring me for years. At least twice a month, we pray and study the Bible together and walk in faith. We share happy and sorrowful moments together. Time after time, we have built a bond of trust, and I know I am with a brother who cares, who nourishes my relationship with the Lord.”
Slowly, Ming is learning to trust again, Hao Ran says.
“Ming is strong in faith, but I can tell he’s been mentally exhausted in this journey,” he says. “At the very beginning, he was so suspicious that he would trust no one. I believe the Holy Spirit moves in his heart and he has been able to develop trust again. I am also grateful that I can do life with him. Now, he is starting to lead a small group again. Please pray for our desolate land.”
With your support, Ming continues to serve God in this difficult region, even as the atmosphere in this area grows tighter and tighter by the day. Because of how hard life is, many secret believers like him lose their faith in Jesus and decide to return to their old lives. At the risk of his own life and freedom, Ming keeps on sharing God’s Word so that his people can hold on and continue to find their footing in Jesus. “No matter what happens, I know it is predestined by our Heavenly Father,” Ming shares. “We listen and follow. He will guide our paths.”