Bob and Heidi Fu and their children soon after they left China.
Bob Fu (Chinese name: Fu Xiqiu) is a Shandong native, born in 1968 in unfashionable Gaomi County in the eastern part of the province. Although few Christians in Shandong have ever heard of Fu, outside his homeland he has come to be regarded as one of the most prominent, albeit controversial Chinese Christians of the past few decades.
Fu and his future wife Heidi were involved in the 1989 Tiananmen Square democracy protests. They left Beijing just days before the massacre, but Fu was so distraught by news of the government crackdown against the unarmed students that it plunged him into deep depression. He was interrogated for his role in the demonstrations, causing him to feel betrayed by his government and to abandon all hope in the Communist system.
Fu was raised in a non-Christian home, and he didn't hear the gospel until an English teacher gave him a book containing the testimony of the nineteenth century Chinese pastor Xi Shengmo, who had been delivered from opium addiction after receiving Jesus Christ.
Fu repented of his sins and placed his trust in the Savior of the world. He later recalled, "My heart felt like it was going to leap out of my chest.... Suddenly I had become aware there was a supernatural power, and that knowledge had miraculously replaced the hatred and anger I'd previously harbored against so many people."1
Fu's vibrant new faith completely transformed his life, and by the time he graduated from Liaocheng University with a law degree in 1991, Bob and his wife Heidi had led 30 of their classmates to faith in Christ. Bob and Heidi moved to the outskirts of Beijing, where they were involved with the house church movement. They met many persecuted Christians who had no way of speaking out against the tyranny they were experiencing. This time helped cement Fu's desire to boldly speak out against injustice, and it set the course of his future ministry. He later fondly recalled,
"In 1993 I was given the job of teaching English at the Communist school, where they trained senior and middle level Party leaders. I also met Jonathan Chao, a well-known Chinese Church historian and scholar. He came to our school and secretly discipled 20 to 30 of us in a disused toilet block. One weekend, from Friday to Sunday, he taught all day and into each night on Chinese Church history. It was a blessed time, being trained in a toilet block right under the nose of the Communist Party."2
By the mid-1990s the Fus again found themselves on the government's radar, and both Bob and Heidi were imprisoned for their faith. After being released two months later, Heidi discovered she was pregnant and faced the likelihood of a forced abortion when the authorities found out. After Bob and Heidi were placed on a government blacklist, they hid for months in a remote area of Shandong. After much prayer they reached the painful decision to leave China. Through a string of divine interventions they ended up in Hong Kong, and finally received permission to travel to the United States just one day before Hong Kong was handed back to Mainland China in July 1997.
After settling into life in America, Bob Fu established a ministry, China Aid Association, which has strongly advocated for the rights of the oppressed in China to the present day. His adventure has led him to help thousands of persecuted Christians back in his homeland, and he has testified before the United Nations, the US Congress, and various other political bodies. Fu also developed a warm relationship with President George W. Bush, and ended up moving his ministry to the Bush family's hometown of Midland, Texas.
Bob Fu's fearless exposure of injustice and his political connections deeply upset the Chinese government, who dispatched agents to harass him in the United States, and powerful computer viruses were sent to him from China which wiped his hard-drives of numerous important documents.
Back in China, the authorities vented their fury on Fu's father, Fu Yubo—an elderly hunch-back in his 70s who had only recently become a follower of Christ. In a bid to get at his absent son, the government arrested and tortured the old man, even though he had recently suffered a stroke and was partially senile. Realizing his father was suffering because of his son's actions on the other side of the world placed a heavy burden on Bob. He said,
"I could hardly bear the strain. My dad had twice tried to come to America to see me, but each time the US Embassy in Beijing rejected his application for a tourist visa, saying he was unable to prove he had sufficient funds to sustain himself while in America. After the second denial something snapped inside my father. He lost hope and was depressed, believing all hope of seeing me again had gone."3
Realizing the Chinese government's inhuman treatment of his disabled father was a trap set in the hope it might cause him to return to his homeland, Bob wisely kept well clear of China's reach, but he concocted a daring plan to smuggle his tiny 70-pound (32 kg) father out of China to live with his family in America. The plan was successful, but unfortunately Fu's father was in the dusk of his life, and cancer claimed him just a few months later.
Although some parts of the Body of Christ choose to shy away from people like Bob Fu because of their political connections, those who personally know him realize his actions are motivated not by politics, but by a deep love for Jesus Christ and a God-given desire to help the Christian community in China. Fu explained,
"Over the years the Lord has taught me to stand for the truth, regardless of the consequences. I will continue to advocate on behalf of my persecuted brothers and sisters in China. Although I am grateful for my life in the United States, and all the gracious hospitality we have received from the American people, I still long for the day when my family might be able to return to a different China, one where people are treated with dignity and where different ideas and beliefs are allowed to flourish."4
Although some Christians who believe religion and politics must never mix may feel uncomfortable with the pathway Bob Fu has been called to walk down, history may well regard this unassuming man as one of the most influential Shandong Christians of his generation.
1. Bob Fu with Nancy French, God's Double Agent: The True Story of a Christian's Fight for Freedom (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2013), p. 110.
2. Personal interview with Bob Fu, April 2002.
3. Personal interview with Bob Fu, April 2002.
4. Personal interview with Bob Fu, April 2002.
© This article is an extract from Paul Hattaway's book 'Shandong: The Revival Province'. You can order this or any of The China Chronicles books and e-books from our online bookstore.