Who We Serve Du Hongbo from China
Du Hongbo always thought he would be the one sent to prison. Instead, he was a single dad to his two young boys for two years while his wife sat in prison.
In 2014, Du Hongbo was a full-time Christian worker, and his wife, Cheng Jie, was serving as director of the Hualin Foreign Language Experimental Kindergarten in Liuzhou, Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region. The couple had two young children, ages 3 and 1.
Cheng Jie was arrested on Feb. 18, 2014, and detained for several months before the government officially charged her with illegal business practices related to her work at the kindergarten. In June 2014, three others were arrested in connection with the case, and that August authorities accused the kindergarten of violating China’s “law of education” by “forcing citizens to believe in a religion.” Authorities also claimed the four arrested had been profiting from the sale of school books.
The charges focused on the school’s curriculum, which taught character and values to the young students but was not overtly Christian. The educational materials made no mention of God or Jesus, and merely used stories and games to teach children about honesty and trustworthiness. According to school staff and others, parents were pleased with the curriculum.
However, the Hualin Kindergarten had been founded by the Liangren Church, so authorities saw the school as an extension of the church’s activities. One of the four arrested was Huang Quirui, a church pastor who had no role at the school but had transported curriculum materials to the facility. Authorities also arrested the school’s accountant and a printer who had produced the materials. The printer’s wife contends that her husband, who is not a Christian, was included in the case “so the authorities could cover up the fact that they are persecuting people based on their religion.”
The Hualin Kindergarten was forced to close, and there are no plans to reopen the school.
“Before God called me to serve Him, we knew such things could happen in this world,” Du Hongbo said. “When I made a decision to serve the Lord full time … I was thinking they would put me in jail. It was beyond my imagination that they would put my wife in jail.”
Cheng Jie remained in prison for a full year before her case finally went to court, and her absence was deeply felt by her husband and children. Speaking to a VOM worker in 2015, Du Hongbo said, “My heart is depressed every time I see my two kids. I don’t know how to take care of kids. When they ask me, I don’t know how to answer. The kids need their mom.”
During Cheng Jie’s time behind bars, Du Hongbo was able to visit her about once a month for 30 minutes at a time, though he never took their boys. The couple talked over a microphone, but he couldn’t see her. The guards were always listening.
Du Hongbo said his wife had been forced to get up at 5 a.m. and work until 10 p.m. Other Chinese prisoners have confirmed the long work hours, denial of treatment for medical problems and limited, poor-quality food.
Two years after her initial arrest, Cheng Jie was reunited with her family.
“I’m really happy,” Du Hongbo said at the time, adding that Cheng Jie was worried that her children wouldn’t recognize her.
Cheng Jie said she had shared her faith with other prisoners. Specifically, she led four prisoners who were under a death sentence to faith in Christ.
Du Hongbo expects the family to have to relocate. VOM will continue to support them, as we did throughout Cheng Jie’s imprisonment. Cheng Jie will have difficulty getting a job now and in the future, and she will always be monitored by local law enforcement.
The couple’s commitment to the Lord, however, will not change. They plan to remain in ministry.
“My calling from God is to serve Him full time,” Du Hongbo said. “That means I won’t look for a job. When we move, we will still preach the gospel.”