INTERVIEW with Rev. Pat Mahoney, Christian Activist Detained in China
RWS: Pat, when did you begin to plan for the demonstration in Beijing?
PM: When we heard a couple of years ago that Beijing would be hosting the 2008 Summer Olympic Games, we felt very strongly that there needed to be a public prophetic witness addressing the human rights abuses by the Chinese government and particularly speaking for those who were under the crushing hand of the government with regard to their Christian faith as well as to address the policy of forced abortion they were also enforcing. We felt there had to be this witness standing up for justice, being a voice for those who had no voice.
We didn’t think we would even have an opportunity since the security is so strong for this event. My organization, the Christian Defense Coalition, has a reputation for speaking out against the human rights violations in China. We’ve been arrested in front of the Chinese Embassy, held prayer vigils for those who were seeking political asylum, and from forced abortion. I just said that there was no way we could get into China, to get a visa into the country.
A missionary friend suggested that we apply with the Chinese consulate in New York where you can process a visa in one day and to only go in as a small group. In June we went to New York City and, sure enough, we get our visas. We felt, really, God’s hand upon us and that was the genesis of the event that we had been planning for almost two years.
RWS: What did you want to accomplish when you went to Beijing?
PM: There were really two things we wanted to do. First, we wanted to unfurl a banner in Tiananmen Square which said, “Jesus Christ is King.” We wanted to proclaim the Lordship of Jesus Christ in front of the tomb of the man responsible for more deaths than even Adolph Hitler and who trampled the rights of the Chinese People.
With the banner, we also wanted to honor Cardinal Kung, who, in 1955, was called upon to renounce his Christian faith in front of a stadium filled with people. His answer was, “Jesus Christ is King!” We wanted to honor him and all the men and women who would not renounce their in Christ. For Cardinal Kung’s heroic stand he was sentenced to life in prison, of which he served 30 years.
The second thing we wanted to do was lay Roses in Tiananmen Square for the students who led the pro-democracy demonstration in 1989 and were brutally killed on June 4th. We also wanted to kneel in prayer and pray for an end to the forced abortion policy in China.
We wanted to bring worldwide attention as the theme of the Olympics was “One World, One Dream.” How could China celebrate that when they crushed the dreams of their own people?
RWS: You actually had the two demonstrations on two succeeding days, from what I read you were able to unfurl the banner the first day.
PM: On the first day, which was Wednesday, August 6, we went in front of Mao Tse-tung’s tomb and unfurled the banner, we laid the roses and we knelt to pray.
Now, here’s an interesting thing. China has massive security and all of the military and law enforcement were in plain clothes, they were not in uniform.
So we unfurled that banner… and it was kind of cute, Chinese children were all running over to have their picture taken in front of the banner. The security forces were all looking at us in disbelief as they’ve never seen anything like this there before.
After about 15 or 20 minutes we saw plain clothes police officers getting out of police cars. As I said the Chinese have massive security out but they’re all in plain clothes as they don’t want to world to see it. They came over and surrounded us with umbrellas to cover our banner.
We then decided that we would walk through Tiananmen Square. So carrying this banner that said “Jesus Christ is King” in both English and Chinese, we began to walk. As we came near a gate the security forces began to push us out of the square. We then knelt on the banner and began to pray. Eventually, they overwhelmed us and pushed us out.
We were then met by police in uniform who detained us. I said, “Are we arrested?” They said, “No.” I said, “Can we leave?” They said, “No.” We were kind of in this “limbo state” and, after about 45 minutes, they let us go.
We were then followed Chinese security forces who stayed in our hotel lobby. We told them that we had not finished our prayer vigil and the next day we wanted to have a news conference in the exact same spot to address the human rights abuses by the Chinese government.
RWS: So did you return the next day?
PM: We went back to the Square on Thursday, August 7, and it was literally packed with tens of thousands of people. As we approached Mao Tse-tung’s tomb and the cameras came up on us, we were immediately surrounded by scores of security who were jabbing us with umbrellas.
They were trying to separate us – you may remember we had a young woman with us, Brandy Swindell, Director of Generation Life, and they kept trying to separate her from Mike McMonagle (also of Generation Life) and myself. She would try to reach out to us and we would grab hold and hang on to her. My pants were completely shredded as we were taken out of the square.
We didn’t want to resist completely so part of the time we were walking almost “duck style” and part of the time we were being dragged on our knees. We were dragged across a street and behind this wall. They kept trying to separate Brandi from us and put her in a different car, but we locked arms, determined that we would stay together. After about 45 minutes we were taken to a Beijing police station where we were questioned for several hours.
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