CNN: Texas pastor behind blind Chinese activist freedom

CNN May 20th, 2012  07:13 AM ET
By Eric Marrapodi, CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor 

(CNN) – It has been a busy week for Pastor "Bob" Xiqiu Fu, a pastor from Midland, Texas, who has spent considerable time on the international stage working for the release of Chen Guangcheng, the Chinese activist who arrived in the United States on Saturday after weeks of diplomatic back and forth between two global super powers.

Weeks ago, when Chen escaped from house arrest by jumping over a high wall and hiding out in a pig sty, Fu was the first to know. 

Chinese activists arrives in U.S. 

When Congress called two hearings in 10 days to address Chen's situation, Fu was front and center. 

Both times, Chen called Fu's cell phone and he translated for the Congressional hearings, and the English speaking world, the concerns of the blind activist for his extended family. 

"It's really an answer to prayer," Fu told CNN of Chen's arrival to the United States.
Fu said he talked with Chen six times before the latter boarded a flight from Beijing to Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey. 

CNN's Belief Blog: the faith angles behind all the big stories 

"He sounded very upbeat but concerned about his other extended family members he is leaving behind who are facing some real serious retribution from the local authorities," Fu said. 

Fu is the president of ChinaAid, a Christian human rights organization that has been campaigning for Chen's freedom. 

On Tuesday, Fu was in Washington, D.C. He began his day at an event with former President George W. Bush, who name-dropped Fu from the podium at an event billed as a Celebration of Human Freedom. 

Fu sat in the front row between Bush and his wife Laura. His job was to introduce the former First Lady. 

Mrs. Bush spoke glowingly of how Fu had helped secure a notebook with the book of Revelation hand copied by Chinese prisoners for the Freedom Collection at the George W. Bush Presidential Center. 

Fu took the chance behind the podium to share his personal story, telling how he was a student leader in 1989 at Tiananmen Square, then became a pastor of a house church in China. 

After he and his wife were arrested for "illegal evangelism," they fled to Hong Kong in 1996. 

From there, they immigrated to the United States and ended up in "dusty" Midland, Texas, where in 2002 they founded ChinaAid. 

The group focuses on "exposing the abuses, encouraging the abused, and spiritually and legally equipping the leaders to defend their faith and freedom," according to a statement on its website. 

In Chen's case, that has meant being fully engaged with campaigning for his freedom.
After the event with Bush, Fu headed to the Rayburn House Office Building to appear in front of a subcommittee hearing on human rights to discuss the Chen case. 

Before it began, Chinese journalists and members of the international media peppered Fu with questions about Chen's condition and whether or not he would be calling into the hearing. 

Fu smiled and answered their questions, alternating between Chinese and English, and said he had lost contact with Chen since the previous night. 

Once the hearing got underway, Fu slipped out into the hallway with a staff member from Rep. Chris Smith's office. A swam of reporters and photographers promptly followed him into the hallway. 

Fu and the staff member slipped into a back room. A few moments later, Fu's assistant slipped out and motioned to the reporters to go back into the hearing room, indicating Fu had connected with Chen again. 

For the second time in 10 days, Fu took to the dais with Smith, holding up his cell phone and translating questions to Chen and relaying his answers. 

"They're doing fine, especially my two children," Chen said on the phone through Fu. "They kept telling my wife and I that this is such a wonderful place, we can play outside. And he said you can tell from my wife and I how terrible they had been back to our home town. They were only allowed to have one hour outing every day," the activist described of his family's time in a Beijing hospital. 

He also explained that Chinese authorities were harassing his extended family in Shandong Province in eastern China. 

"My elder brother was taken away by these thugs without any reasoning and then they came back and started beating up my nephew, and they used stakes and violently beat him up," Chen told the House Foreign Affairs Committee from his hospital room. 

As he spoke, the room leaned in, intently listening to the international drama unfolding in the committee hearing room. 

When the hearing ended, Fu came back out to answer more questions from reporters.
When asked what it was like to be in the middle of a diplomatic struggle between two countries he said, "(Chen) as a blind man was willing to risk his own life and his family paid such a heavy price, what about ours who are living in the free world? We have the freedom, freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, freedom of expression. I think we should not (remain) silent in facing this evil." 

As Chen was heading to the United States to begin a new chapter in his life, Fu said he was deeply grateful for the international community's efforts to secure his freedom - efforts that tested U.S. relations with the Communist giant. 

"We are happy for Chen and his family. This is a great day for freedom fighters," Fu said in a statement to the media. 

Eric Marrapodi - CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor