Dr Li Baiguang, an internationally renowned human rights defence lawyer, was pronounced dead on Tuesday morning. He is said to have died at 3am in the Chinese government military hospital in Nanjing, hours after checking in for a stomach complaint.
The hospital said he had bled to death due to a liver condition. Dr Li, who was only 49 and neither drank nor smoked, had been in good health shortly beforehand. Other human rights campaigners have died in similarly suspicious circumstances.
Dr Li was an outspoken legal advocate for Christian pastors who have been arrested for their faith.
In October, he was abducted by Chinese officials in Zhejiang province, beaten and threatened with dismemberment for defending farmers whose land was seized by the government. Earlier this month, Dr Li said he felt threatened after attending the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington. While he was out of the country, Chinese authorities interrogated his pastor.
He leaves a wife and eight-year-old son.
February saw a tightening of restrictions against Christians in China, which will impact registered churches as well as house churches.
In the build-up to the new regulations, some 1500 crosses have been torn down, churches have been demolished, offerings seized, and pastors arrested. Many human rights lawyers, including Christians, have also been arrested. They have been denied visits by their families or legal representation.
The new Regulations for Religious Affairs are intended to clamp down on extremism. They forbid religious organisations from using religion to ‘harm national security or disrupt social order’.
Despite the increasingly open persecution of Christians in China, the growth of Christianity there seems unstoppable. Some sociologists project that number of Chinese Christians will exceed 220 million by 2030 – making China the largest Christianised nation in the world.
Sources: Release International, China Aid
- Commit to the Lord the family of Li, his church and colleagues. Ask God to comfort them in their time of grief and shock.
- Pray the details of Li’s death will be made known. Pray the Lord will raise up others to be a voice for the oppressed in China.
- Praise the Lord for the steadfast faith of Chinese believers and the growth of the church.