One year and ten months in jail was the penalty for holding a sign asking to commemorate the Tiananmen Square massacre with prayers.
by Qi Junzao
On March 21, 2023, the Panyu District People’s Court of the prefecture-level city of Guangzhou, the capital of the Guangdong province, sentenced Gao Heng to one year and ten months in jail for “picking quarrels and provoking trouble.”
Bitter Winter had reported on the case of Brother Gao Heng after he was arrested in 2021. An active lay member of the Bible Reformed Church in Guangzhou, the 38-year-old Gao became popular as a volunteer assisting those in need during the difficult days of the COVID-19 lockdown.
He had already been harassed by the police in 2020 after he was caught holding a sign calling for “Respect for Life” and “Opposition to Abortion” on Children’s Day.
On June 4, 2021, the 32nd anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre of 1989, Gao stood at a subway station of Metro Line 2 in Guangzhou holding a sign “June 4, Pray for the Country.”
He also posted on Weibo a comment on Tiananmen, reading. “Although all social suffering is often attributed to the ugliness of the system and politics, at its root, however, it always stems from the deep-rooted sinfulness in the hearts of people. In terms of this sinfulness, we are not fundamentally different from the deciders, commanders, and executors of the massacre. We thank the Lord that, although we are all sinners, we have received freely grace from God, repented and confessed our sins, accepted Jesus as Lord, and thus became children of God.”
It is unclear whether authorities realized that the words Gao posted on Weibo were from the “Chinese Christians’ 2009 Declaration on the 20th Anniversary of the June 4 Massacre,” whose main drafter was the now imprisoned Pastor Wang Yi from Early Rain Covenant Church in Chengdu. What Gao posted was not a political message but a call to repentance and prayer.
On June 5, Gao was detained by the police, and formally arrested on July 12.On February 11, 2022, the case against him started at the Panyu District Court. He has now been sentenced, and is currently detained in the Guangzhou No. 2 Detention Center.
Update (April 4, 2023): Considering the pre-trial detention time, Gao had served his term by April 4, 2023, and was released. According to information supplied by his friends, he was unnaturally thin, and barely recognizable.