History

Wang Zhiming

Wang Zhiming

A statue to this modern martyr was unveiled in July 1998 and stands above the west entrance to Westminster Abbey. The sculptor was Neil Simmons. Information about the ten martyr statues can be found on the entry for Maximilian Kolbe.

His life

"You should follow the words from above, and repent again."

In 1981 a memorial to Zhiming was erected in Wuding County, in the Yunnan region of China. It is the only monument known to commemorate a Christian killed in the Cultural Revolution. At its foot may be found the words, 'As the Scripture says of the Saints, "They will rest from their labours for their deeds follow them." '

Christian missionaries first settled in Yunnan towards the end of the nineteenth century, and came to Wuding County in 1906. After the Communist revolution the missionaries were expelled: Christianity was identified with imperialism. But the religion endured, despite the pressures of political campaigns and public discouragements. Christians who sought to reconcile the demands of their faith with the political requirements of their new state could find the experience harsh and taxing.

Between 1966 and 1976 the Cultural Revolution brought an onslaught against all that was ancient or venerated in Chinese life. The young Red Guards who led the campaign sought to break free of the past and to create a revolutionary society that was utterly new. Religion must be destroyed. Churches were closed and Christians were forced to meet secretly.

In the mid 1960s there were 2,795 Christians in Wuding county. Wang Zhiming lived among them as a pastor. Little is known of him. As a child he was educated in mission schools, and then he taught as a member of staff in one of them for ten years. In 1944 he was elected chairman of the Sapushan Church Council in Wuding. In 1951 he was ordained. Wang showed his loyalty to the state. But he also refused to participate in denunciation meetings held to humiliate landlords or foment hatred against foreign powers.

Between 1969 and 1973 at least twenty-one Christian leaders in Wuding were interned. Some were intellectuals, other workers. Some were senior party officials. Many were sent to camps, were denounced or beaten. Muslims in the county were also persecuted. Wang Zhiming was known to be a critic of the atheistic campaigns of local Red Guards. In May 1969 he and other members of his family were arrested. Four years later he was condemned to death. He was by then an old man of sixty-six.

Wang Zhiming was executed on 29 December 1973 at a mass rally of more than 10,000 people. Immediately afterwards the crowd broke into confusion and the prosecuting official was assaulted by furious Christians there. The tumult is still widely remembered.

Wang's wife was imprisoned for three years; two of his sons for nine years; a third reportedly took his own life while under detention. The policy to destroy religion was seen to fail, and was abandoned. In October 1980 Wang Zhiming was 'rehabilitated' by party officials, and his family offered compensation. Today Wang is remembered reverently in the churches of Wuding, where there are around 30,000 Christians, and more than 100 places of worship.