Blog Post

Chinese Deport Americans for Praying in Beijing

by Susan Brinkmann, OCDS Staff WRiter Three Americans had a first-hand experience of the notorious religious persecution of communist China when they were arrested in Beijing, questioned for hours, then deported back to the United States. Their crime? Praying in public. Michael McMonagle, a Catholic pro-life activist and the founder of Generation Life located in Philadelphia, was one of three people who were arrested in Beijing on August, 7 after praying and attempting to meet with Western media in Tiananmen Square. The group was detained for the same crime the day before, which caused a flurry of media attention, but were released after 30 minutes. This time, however, Chinese authorities were not so forgiving. “We told the police we were coming back the next day to hold a news conference and they said Tiananmen Square is open to the media,” McMonagle said shortly after landing in Newark International Airport this morning. “They let us on the Square but they knew who we were. We were being followed as soon as we got there.” When the media formed around McMonagle and his companions, plain clothes security officers moved in, pushed the media away and forcibly dragged the three off the Square. McMonagle was forced into a van along with his companions, Rev. Patrick J. Mahoney, Director of the Washington DC based Chrisitan Defense Coalition and Brandi Swindell of Boise, Idaho, National Director of Generation Life. They were taken to a nearby police station and individually interrogated.   “They were asking us why we were here and we told them it was because of forced abortion and human rights abuses,” McMonagle said. “They wrote it all down along with their side of the story, that we were breaking Chinese law and disturbing public order.” Throughout the questioning, they kept asking if any native Chinese were involved because they knew that the incident from the day before had been posted on YouTube. “They wanted to know who was helping us,” he said.   At around 2:30 p.m., police came back with what looked like a fake credit card machine and announced that because they had violated Chinese law they had to be punished. Their visas were terminated and they were told to leave the country immediately. The authorities insisted that they pay for new plane tickets, which cost around $2,000. “We refused to buy the tickets,” McMonagle said. “We couldn’t afford it.” Rev. Mahoney told authorities if they wanted them out of China, they’d have to pay for it themselves. And by the way, he added, they wanted to fly business class. “They didn’t get it,” McMonagle said. Next, they were taken in an unmarked van back to the hotel to collect their belongings, then seemed to be heading to the airport when the van suddenly turned off the main road and into a seedy part of town. The van stopped in front of a run-down restaurant near an apartment building that was being watched by guards wearing red arm-bands. After being taken into the restaurant, the group was commanded to eat. Apparently, their captors were hungry but Chinese custom dictates that visitors must eat first. Afterward, a police escort accompanied the van to the airport. “They had taken our passports and cell phones and didn’t give them back until we were literally walking down the ramp and getting onto the plane,” McMonagle said. The group landed safely at Newark International Airport at 7:30 a.m. this morning. McMonagle has no regrets about the mission, especially because they had made arrangements with a missionary in rural China to help pay the fine for couples who want more than their allotted number of  children. “In some parts of rural China, if you want a baby beyond your allotted quota of one or two, you have to pay a fine of 10,000 yen, ($1500 US),” McMonagle said. “However, the average income in this part of China is only about 8,000 yen, so no one can afford to pay this.” They also committed themselves to helping an order of Catholic sisters who run a shelter for women fleeing the government’s forced abortion program. “We accomplished a system to bring tangible aid to save Chinese babies’ lives and reminded the world of serious human rights abuses that happened in China,” he said about the trip. “And I think we move more Christians in America to be committed to the pro-life cause. I think we achieved all of these goals.” © All Rights Reserved, Living His Life Abundantly/Women of Grace.