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How Tiananmen Square launched one man's spiritual journey

Bob Fu, who grew up as 'model' communist in China, became disillusioned with the party and found Christianity. Now he monitors religious persecution in China from abroad. 

 Bob Fu grew up poor, the son of beggars. But he was bright and became a model communist boy – a good student and a good speaker who loved the party. He was very “red” – he saw Marx and Mao as liberators of peasants like himself.

So in 1989 when students filled Tiananmen Square, Mr. Fu (then known as Fu Xiqiu) was enthralled. He felt it must be a new phase of reform with students as the advance guard. He led a group from Liaocheng College (now Liao-cheng University) in Shandong, China; they arrived in late May. They stayed in tents, gave speeches, and even caught a glimpse of their hero, the reformist leader of the Soviet Union, Mikhail Gorbachev.

Yet on June 4 everything went sideways. The Army cleared the square by shooting students. Fu was arrested, sent back to Shandong, and interrogated. “I didn’t know it, but this was the beginning of my spiritual journey,” he says. 

It was a dark time. He was shocked to find friends ostracizing him. 

“I found that people are not always reliable. People I treated with love and care told lies about me,” he recalls. “I used to walk into the college president’s office without an appointment, but he, too, shut the door.” 

Fu began to doubt. He couldn’t face going home to his mother in disgrace. At school he had to write about his Tiananmen “crimes” again and again. His plans to become a diplomat educated at Beijing University were over. He considered suicide and even harming others.

Then someone gave him a book written by a Chinese scholar who had been cured of opium addiction after meeting a British missionary. His name was Xi Shengmo. Mr. Xi, like Fu, knew nothing about Christianity, but found in the Bible a spiritual message strong enough to help him overcome his own opium addiction and cure others as well. 

The story hit Fu hard. “I read it in one breath and took notes that I still look at. ‘How can I help others if I am ready to kill myself?’ My own heart was as dark as those of my enemies. I realized you can’t change yourself by yourself. You need help. This is what Xi found. 

“So I started to read the same words he read. I called them ‘the beautiful words.’ I didn’t know where they came from but they were so powerful I wrote them all down. Later I found they were from Paul, about a new life.” The words came from II Corinthians 5:17, Fu remembers: “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.”

Fu’s life turned around. He went to a different university and studied the Bible each night. His family and girlfriend became Christian, after seeing the effect it had on him. 

The authorities began to follow him because of his church work. He escaped through Thailand, went to Hong Kong, and now runs a nongovernmental organization in Texas that tracks Christians facing persecution in China. He also spends time lobbying in Washington. 

Fu wants more democracy and human rights for China. But he now feels some kind of spiritual rebirth will be a prerequisite. 

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