Church leaders Bob and Heidi Fu, fleeing arrest in China only to be trapped in Hong Kong, have fled to the United States after a successful campaign for their rescue.

National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) President Don Argue and U.S. Assistant Secretary of State John Shattuck used their positions on the Secretary of State's Advisory Committee on Religious Freedom Abroad to coordinate efforts to win U.S. approval of the Fus' refugee status request.

An anxious shiver ran through religious and political refugees amid the cheers in China leading up to the British handover of Hong Kong on July 1.

Even though China had agreed to Great Britain's insistence that Hong Kong's freedoms be respected when the British government's control expired on June 30, most residents of the colony urged refugees to leave before the handover.

From their base in Beijing, Bob Fu, 29, and his wife, Heidi, 31, had trained leaders of the unofficial Chinese house-church movement. And since their arrest in May 1996, an intensive behind-the-scenes effort developed to win their freedom. After escaping from house arrest in Beijing, the Fus were trapped in Hong Kong.

Initially, the U.S. consulate general in Hong Kong delayed any ruling on the family's request for refugee status in the United States, apparently placing a greater premium on political dissidents than religious fugitives.

"There's a bias among some of our political elites that, if you are willing to die for the Bible, you're a fanatic, but if you die in front of a tank, you're a hero," says Nina Shea of the human-rights group Freedom House in Washington, D.C.

NAE's Argue and the State Department's Shattuck became involved in a blitz of phone calls, cables, faxes, and meetings to spring the Fus from ...

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