China, Hong Kong, and Macao
CHINA is earth’s most populous nation. Situated on the southeast corner of Asia and flanked by Japan and Korea, it covers an area of some three and a half million square miles.
The majority of Chinese are farmers, raising livestock, poultry, rice and vegetables to feed the country’s 800 million people. Over the centuries the Chinese have built up a reputation for being very industrious and hardworking, and for overcoming adversity with remarkable tenacity. Traditionally they are Buddhist, with a fatalistic outlook. Their Buddhism is a mixture of ancient China’s Taoism influenced by the philosophy of Confucius, with ancestor worship playing a prominent role in family life.
By tradition the Chinese family is close-knit. Families of the same province and who speak the same dialect form clans that can seldom be breached. Personal business becomes the clan’s business. To these Chinese, money represents power and is worshiped as a god, but their reasoning on the origin and purpose of life is almost nonexistent.
“WATCH TOWER” REACHES CHINA
Have the people of China had opportunity to hear the good news of God’s kingdom? Even in the early years of the modern organization of Jehovah’s Christian witnesses the good news reached China. While Zion’s Watch Tower was first printed and distributed in July 1879, in 1883 it had already found its way into China. In 1883, Miss Downing, a missionary of the Presbyterian Board in Chefoo, China, chanced upon a copy of The Watch Tower. An article on restitution appealed to her; she subscribed for the magazine, left her religion and became a witness for Jehovah. She talked to other missionaries and was instrumental in helping others to leave false religion.
Among them was Horace A. Randle, a Baptist missionary. At first his response was slow, but in 1896 he began to study in earnest and to share with his wife and children what he was learning. Thus both his wife and eldest daughter accepted the truth. He also witnessed to fellow missionaries. All of this led him to an important decision, as related in Zion’s Watch Tower of May 15, 1900: “In 1898, being persuaded that this testimony is from God, and is in conflict with nominal Christianity, I did not consider it necessary to confer with flesh and blood, but resigned my connection with both the Baptist church and the Mission Board with which I was connected. Being now free from the creeds and traditions of men, my first desire was to tell others the truth that had given me such joy and comfort.”
Brother Randle’s zeal led him to conduct meetings with several missions in China. To further spread the gospel throughout the Far East, about 5,000 tracts and 2,324 letters were sent to missionaries in China, Japan, Korea and Thailand, also ninety copies of the book Millennial Dawn were placed. The response was limited, but a well-educated Chinese woman wrote: “I have been reading the tracts you so kindly left me, first with interest, then with delight, and I feel so much happier than I have been for a long time; the more I read the more I want to read and the more light I get, but there is still much I want to know. I would like to have Millennial Dawn and the pamphlet on Hell. If you tell me how to send the money I will be ever so much obliged.” In northern China a young man left the Brethrenism missionary work and stood firm for truth. Some other missionaries were also showing interest. So in China the light of truth dawned early. But it went mainly to missionaries of Christendom’s sects, since the message was distributed only in English at that time.
The first president of the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society was keenly interested in the preaching of the good news of God’s kingdom as commanded at Matthew 24:14. So, early in 1912, as chairman of a committee of seven men, C. T. Russell sailed into the port city of Shanghai, giving talks with a warning message of the approaching end of the “Gentile Times.” These lectures helped to spread the seeds of truth to still farther areas.
A further witness was given in 1915 and again in 1918, when a sister F. L. Mackenzie, a British colporteur, visited parts of Japan, Korea and China. Then in 1923 two fleshly sisters, Bessie and Harriet Barchet, appeared in Shanghai. Bessie Barchet introduced the Bible truth to a young Chinese man, Frank Chen, by means of the book The Harp of God. Christendom’s agents temporarily discouraged him from reading it. But when Miss Barchet left for home in 1926, she gave Frank Chen’s name to Brother Akashi in Tokyo. For the next few years, by means of brothers passing through Shanghai and by correspondence with a brother in New York, Frank Chen made progress in understanding and appreciating the truth.
In October 1931, two Japanese colporteurs arrived in Shanghai from Formosa, followed by Brother Akashi. The latter advised Frank Chen that, although he had been baptized in Christendom’s religion, he needed to be baptized again. With Frank Chen there was a close friend, Bao Min Jong, who was also interested in the truth. And so on October 21, 1931, the first two Chinese brothers were baptized in a hotel bathtub in Shanghai.
No time was to be wasted now! Brother Akashi immediately gave Brother Chen instructions to translate into Chinese the booklet Kingdom, then the booklet War or Peace, Which? and then the book Government. Mats for the Kingdom booklet were soon sent to Brooklyn for printing, but Brother Chen had already printed 500 copies with plain cover, and he distributed them daily on the streets. Although Brother Bao was shot by Japanese soldiers early in 1932, Brother Chen continued working hard.
During the 1930’s a number of hardy pioneers from Australia also sowed seeds of truth in the Orient. An office to supply the service needs of these pioneers was maintained in Shanghai. One faithful pioneer couple, Brother and Sister Schuett, made trips out of Shanghai to other treaty ports, including Hong Kong, Chefoo, Swatow, Tientsin, Tsingtao and later to Peking. Thousands of books and booklets were placed. By June 1933, Brother Chen reported that every Sunday from 10 to 10:30 a.m. lectures supplied from Brooklyn were being broadcast over radio station XHHH in Shanghai.
Spreading the Kingdom good news in this part of the world was not easy. This is well illustrated by the experience related by an Australian businessman living in Shanghai in 1935:
“In the summer of 1935, the temperature being about 95 degrees in the shade, we looked out of our window and there in the middle of the road, wheeling a perambulator was an elderly European woman. On the perambulator was a phonograph and she was playing Bible lectures. With her was a Chinese man who was translating the lectures into the Chinese language. They were surrounded by a group of Chinese riffraff who were mostly jeering at them, swearing and saying, ‘Look at that silly old white devil.’”
What would this businessman, Mr. Wolnizer, do? “My son said, ‘Look at that poor old woman. Why not ask her in for a cup of tea?’ We did. She was very pleased. She said to me, ‘Are you interested in the Bible?’ ‘Of course I am,’ I replied. ‘I am especially interested in the second coming of Christ.’ ‘Christ has come!’ she said, looking me straight in the eye. ‘Christ has come?’ I repeated. Well, it certainly was an extremely hot day, and she was an old woman, wasn’t she? And the sun does go to your head sometimes, doesn’t it? Mind you, I didn’t say those things; they were only my thoughts.”
But because of the hospitality of a “cup of tea” the entire Wolnizer family got the truth through Sister Hudson and were baptized in 1937. They were able to open their home for meetings and to work with faithful pioneers and publishers in spreading the good news.
Reports on the work done from 1935 to 1937 indicate that an extensive witness was being given in China. In 1935 four different brothers shared in the pioneer ministry and work was done in the cities of Nanking, Shanghai, Tsingtao, Hankow, Kiukiang, Wuhu and Soochow. Every Sunday evening for some three years Brother Rutherford’s lectures were broadcast over Radio XMHA, Shanghai, until opposition from the Catholic Church stopped them. Letters came in from all parts of China, even from Manchuria and the far western province of Kansu. Interestingly, by this time there were eleven booklets and the book Preparation translated and available in the Chinese language.
On July 7, 1937, the Sino-Japanese war broke out. The Schuetts continued their pioneer work as best they could under the circumstances. Then in 1939 three German pioneers, Willie Poethko, Herman Guettler and Paul Mobius, were assigned to Shanghai by the Swiss branch. Since Japan became partners with Germany, the pioneers had little problem getting in. The 1939 annual report from China showed 4 pioneers, 9 congregation publishers, 846 books distributed and 2,817 hours devoted to preaching the good news, compared with 1,182 hours in 1938. Cruel and harsh domination by the Japanese in China followed.
THE GOOD NEWS COMES TO HONG KONG
Approximately 800 miles south of Shanghai, on the China coast, lies the British colony of Hong Kong. The beautiful natural harbor is always a beehive of activity, with over fifty ships from China and other world ports being handled each day. Junks, sampans, ferries and modern oceangoing vessels can be seen side by side any day of the year. The colony really consists of three separate parts: Hong Kong Island (Victoria), Kowloon, and the outlying districts next to the border with China called the New Territories.
Life in the New Territories is an almost exact replica of life in China. In contrast, the city is thriving, bustling, and full of loud cacophonous sound, life being British in accent with Chinese undercurrent and culture. Hong Kong is now a modern city with the typical “concrete jungle.” Next to Tokyo, Hong Kong is perhaps the most densely populated city in the Orient.
What kind of picture does the theocratic activity of Jehovah’s Christian witnesses in Hong Kong paint? To answer this question properly, it must be remembered that Hong Kong is simply a “little China.” All the superstitions, national pride, traditions, Buddhism, Taoism, Confucianism, ancestor worship and extreme love for wealth, have followed the people into Hong Kong. There have been no spectacular experiences, events nor increases in Hong Kong that shout for attention in the modern history of the Kingdom work here.
Rather, the picture is one of great patience, endurance, hard work, sometimes heartache and disappointment, and yet joy from the small increases that have come. It is for this reason that the foreign missionaries view the local brothers who have come into the truth and stood firm as indeed very precious. It is not easy to get the truth and stick with it in the materialistic atmosphere of Hong Kong.
Chinese parents constantly, daily, inculcate in their children a sense of loyalty to the family and the “duty” that the child has to pay back to the parents what he owes for being raised by them. Any breach of this “duty” makes the parent “lose face,” which may even lead to suicide. Love does not necessarily enter the picture in paying the “debt.” As one woman said when asked what her hope for the future was: “My hope is to have many children, and when they grow up they can take care of me.” It is common, therefore, for young teen-agers to be taken out of school to go to work. They may work six or sometimes seven days a week, twelve hours a day or more, turning all the money over to their parents, who then give them a small allowance. At times, if he has enough children, the father quits work and spends his time and money in “tea-houses” entertaining friends. Therefore, when children learn the truth, attend five meetings a week and seek first God’s kingdom, this, to say the least, is not looked on with approval by the parents. With these points in mind, then, let us look at the history of Jehovah’s witnesses in Hong Kong.
On January 18, 1912, the Hong Kong English newspaper South China Morning Post carried a notice that Pastor Russell would give two lectures in the City Hall. The following evening, January 19, he spoke at 5:15 and again at 9 o’clock to mainly European audiences. His subjects were “Where Are the Dead?” and “Public Questions.” Between these two lectures he went to the Theatre Royal where he spoke to a Chinese audience of about four hundred persons.
In later years, hardy Australian pioneers witnessed here as they passed through on preaching tours in the Orient. In 1939 Brother Schuett and his wife came down from Shanghai and, together with another pioneer and two publishers, spent two months preaching here. In 1941 another pioneer, Wilfred Johns, stayed four months in the colony and the 1942 Yearbook, page 147, reports that he spent a total of 429 hours in the field ministry, placing 462 books and many booklets. But since the colony was battening down for the Japanese attack, Brother Johns had to leave. Nevertheless, the seeds of truth were left to sprout.
By 1941 the Shanghai office of the Watch Tower was closed by the Japanese, and the brothers had no more publications and only a little money to try to get some booklets printed. From this date until the end of the war they were out of touch with the Brooklyn headquarters. They decided to buy a little farm, as Brother Mobius wrote, so that none of them would have to return to the world to make their living. Frank Chen left Shanghai to buy the land, but the brothers did not hear from him for quite some time. Writing later from Taiwan, he said he had been arrested, beaten and jailed.
Meanwhile, back in Shanghai, Brothers Poethko, Guettler, Mobius and Schuett were all arrested and threatened, even with execution, if they continued their work for the American Watch Tower Society. The three German brothers and Brother Schuett were later released since they were classified as German nationals. Brother and Sister Schuett did much fine work throughout China and Hong Kong, and through correspondence kept in touch with interested persons. Some time after the Japanese occupation ended, they left Shanghai, and Brother Poethko was put in charge of the branch. In reporting the 1946 service year’s activities in China, Brother Poethko says: “In the month of June, 1946, we started our real active work from house to house with our new literature at hand. At the last Memorial ten persons were present and three partook of the emblems.” Still, there were not enough Witnesses to spread out beyond Shanghai’s six million people.
On Friday morning, April 4, 1947, Brothers Knorr and Henschel, who had been visiting the branch office in Manila, Philippines, arranged to fly to Shanghai to see the brothers there, but because of the failure of one of the engines on the plane while in flight they returned to Manila. They tried to reach Shanghai by way of Hong Kong but on arriving in Hong Kong on Saturday they learned that the plane for Shanghai had left that morning. So Brothers Knorr and Henschel made preparations to celebrate the Lord’s Evening Meal in Hong Kong, on Sunday, April 6. The Watchtower of July 1, 1947, reported on this matter in these words: “At six o’clock, Sunday night, April 6, four of us gathered together in the hotel room and discussed the Memorial of Christ’s death. Brother Knorr gave the talk concerning the Memorial and its importance. It was a joyful occasion, and the privilege of the two brothers that partook of the emblems in association with the two persons of good-will was greatly appreciated. . . . Monday . . . we concluded that since we were unable to get to Shanghai the Lord would provide some other way, probably through the visit of the Gilead brothers, for the assistance of the Kingdom publishers in Shanghai and for the advancing of the Kingdom service in China, that mighty country of the East where so little truth is known.”
FIRST MISSIONARIES ARRIVE
On a hot, sultry day, June 17, 1947, Harold King and Stanley Jones, graduates of the eighth class of Gilead, arrived in Shanghai. The three German pioneers were on hand to greet them. As Brothers Jones and King ate their evening meal they learned of the conditions, both spiritually and secularly, in Shanghai.
Shanghai, religiously, commercially and politically, was in crisis stage. The Nationalist Kuo Ming Tang Party was at war with Mao Tse-tung’s Communists in the northern provinces and war came closer to Shanghai each day. Refugees swelled the number of people in the already crowded city. There were literally thousands of beggars, many of whom froze to death during the cold winter nights. By the early part of 1948, respect for the British was at low ebb. Thousands of people, mostly students, burned down British buildings in Canton. There were slogans pasted up on buildings and anti-British demonstrations. Political arrests, rice riots, black markets, luxury and squalor were all part of life in Shanghai.
The two new missionaries found that a study was being held in the home of a family named Chang. Mr. and Mrs. Chang were nominal Christians and allowed the study in their home, but showed no signs of taking action on what they had learned. Their son Manfred, however, was showing good progress. Manfred had been witnessing to his cousin, Ernest Kong, and his wife, and these later became active in the truth. So, there was at least a basis or a small nucleus of interested Chinese to share the message with others in their own language.
The congregation meetings were being held in a small back room of a realty office. There were fourteen persons in attendance for the meeting when Brothers Jones and King were first introduced. Their arrival was a great encouragement to the little group.
Stanley Jones was appointed branch overseer for China, and right away the work was organized to accomplish more among the Chinese population. The congregation was divided into two groups: one to work the eastern side of the city, and the other to work the western side. Among the faithful workers was a sister Fira Groezinger, who had come in contact with the truth through the pioneer brothers. Brother King studied with her husband and he too accepted the truth, sharing in the Kingdom work in China until they had to leave.
It was hard work at first; all had to rely on testimony cards written in Chinese to present the message. Literature was available in English and Chinese. At that time the book Salvation and five booklets were translated into Chinese. It seemed to the missionaries that they were beating their heads against a wall. The Shanghainese dialect was a great obstacle that had to be overcome. The majority of people were Buddhists and did not take quickly to listening to the Bible. Nearly all doorways had shrines with joss sticks burning. Inside, the houses also had shrines and altars. Fixed to the window and over doorways were mirrors to frighten away evil spirits. Over the gateways were red paper tags with good-luck sayings and fearsome pictures of Buddhist gods.
Much of the door-to-door work was done in lanes. Along any given street a person would enter an archway that opened into a compound composed of many homes. These would often be three-story residences in rows of four. Usually there would be many families in one building. Sometimes one lane would contain a labyrinth of alleyways. A lane could be extremely neat and clean, as in the wealthier sections, or, in the poorer sections, full of garbage and rain holes. Usually the main gate had a watchman who would keep the gate locked at night.
Little by little the language problem was tackled by the missionaries. Since there are literally hundreds of dialects of Chinese, but only one written language, finding a teacher that spoke true Shanghainese, the local dialect, proved to be a major task. For a time, the missionaries conducted many of their Bible studies with those who could understand English. Oftentimes, only the people who had already had some contact with the Bible would study. There were many nominal Christians that Christendom had “converted.” But they were “converted” by the use of material inducements, making many persons nothing more than “rice Christians.” Yet, the fact that the Chinese Bible uses the divine name Jehovah extensively led to good discussions.
Jehovah’s blessing was on this little group of His witnesses, and things began to happen. Brother Jones met a local church worker and housewife, Nancy Yuen, in the house-to-house ministry. Her husband was not in the least interested in the Bible, but Mrs. Yuen immediately saw the difference between Christendom and true Christianity. She began coming regularly to meetings and left her church. She spoke English well and became very close to Sister Groezinger. Together these two sisters, because of their bright outgoing spirit, greatly encouraged the younger ones who had begun to associate at the meetings. Here was a Chinese publisher, Nancy Yuen, doing house-to-house preaching and conducting Bible studies, all in the Chinese language.
Brother Guettler, meanwhile, met Mr. Vong, who worked in the Shanghai power station. He too became an active Witness. Manfred Chang witnessed to Kay Chow in his Shanghai dockyard office, and she too joined the expanding group of Witnesses. And all of this within just a few months. How overjoyed they were to see fifty-nine attend the Memorial in 1948!
In the meantime, the two missionaries had moved to a more permanent home, just three minutes’ walk from the Kingdom Hall. Because of the high rents, it had taken them two months to find a suitable home. The place consisted of a small room with just about enough space for two beds and a tiny kitchenette. The rent? In U.S. money, $80 per month and that was considered cheap!
The Shanghai branch arranged for a baptism in July 1948. The brothers were very grateful to see nine baptized; all but one were Chinese.
Another Gilead graduate, an American-born Chinese brother, Lew Ti Himm, arrived in Shanghai in January 1949. Accompanying him were four other brothers, Cyril Charles and Joseph McGrath en route to Taiwan to serve as missionaries and William Carnie and Roy Spencer en route to Hong Kong as their missionary assignment. By means of special meetings with the transit missionary brothers, the Shanghai congregation was strengthened.
TRUTH BEGINS TO SPREAD IN HONG KONG
Just before World War II, Paul Lam, a young man who spoke English, came in contact with the truth. He tells how: “Just out of school and starting work, I noted many rich people who spent their money like water. I envied them. So I began looking for wealth. One day while browsing in a secondhand bookstore a book entitled ‘Riches’ caught my eye. Just what I want, I thought! I noticed it was a Bible book, and since I was a ‘Christian’ I bought it.” He found the teachings about hell, Trinity and others very interesting and logical. In the book, he saw a “colorful library” of other books of the Society advertised and so all during the war he kept searching in secondhand bookstores until he had them all. After the war was over he wrote to two of the Watch Tower Society’s branches, the one in Australia and the one in India. He ordered more publications and subscribed for The Watchtower and Awake! With visits from publishers from Shanghai and the arrival of the first missionaries, Paul Lam made more rapid progress.
In the wake of the Communist takeover in China, Hong Kong had become a crowded city. But Paul Lam helped to find temporary accommodations for the two Gilead graduates of the eleventh class, William Carnie and Roy Spencer, when they arrived on January 16, 1949. It took more than three months to locate more permanent quarters. This was at No. 1 Beautiful Terrace on Hong Kong Island, high up the side of a hill and quite a climb. Their quarters were one room, 11 feet by 11 feet. The missionaries installed a double bunk bed and folding cots and made room for forty cartons of literature they had brought. Sleeping, cooking, washing, ironing, yes, everything had to be done in this one room!
Meetings were arranged almost immediately by the two missionaries. These were held in English. Paul Lam attended and enjoyed the association of the brothers. The missionaries could see that language would be a problem. In Hong Kong the Cantonese dialect is spoken, and those understanding English sufficiently to learn the truth were few. So, Paul Lam began teaching Cantonese to the two brothers in the evening. He also accompanied the missionaries as translator in the field work, and at public talks that were held he was again the translator.
Cantonese is strictly a spoken language, whereas the written language is Mandarin, which is read with Cantonese pronunciation. This, in effect, means that a person coming to Hong Kong needs to learn two languages. The progress of the new missionaries was slow. Generally, Bible studies, house-to-house work and meetings continued to be conducted in English. Nevertheless, in spite of the language barrier, some very good contacts were made in the first few years, resulting in a nucleus of Chinese publishers who have proved valuable assets to the work to this day.
In those early years much literature was distributed, and various interested ones were helped to a knowledge of the truth. Later, most of those early ones became circuit or congregation overseers, special pioneers or translators. Jehovah was directing affairs for the work to move ahead on a good foundation.
In those days foreigners were welcomed into most homes and literature placements were good. However, many persons looked upon this as an opportunity to learn English and nothing more. In the fall of 1949, Brother Carnie placed an English copy of the book “Let God Be True” with a Mrs. Liang, who just wanted to be polite to a stranger. When he called back this Chinese woman showed no interest. However, her son Fu-lone recalls: “She thought it would be good for me to have some discussions with a European in order to improve my English.” Fu-lone had been educated in a mission school, and all in his family except him were nominal Christians. He went along with his mother’s suggestion and had discussions with Brother Carnie. But he was not really interested, and being too embarrassed to say so, he just stopped being at home. So Brother Carnie stopped calling. A few months later Fu-lone became sick and had to stay in bed. Now he had time to consider more seriously what he had learned and came to the conclusion that there must be a Creator. Shortly thereafter Brother Carnie called again and found this young man in a more receptive frame of mind. Then one evening the chapter on hell attracted his attention and the information so stirred him that he completed reading “Let God Be True” in two days. When Brother Carnie returned, he was surprised to find that the young lad had now accepted the truth in his heart.
Family opposition began as he started to attend meetings. Meeting attendance interfered with meals at home, so Fu-lone decided to miss meals on meeting nights, and did not let family opposition slow him down either. He was baptized in 1951. He later helped his sister to learn the truth, and after baptism she served for a time as a missionary in Taiwan.
In April 1950, Cyril Charles and Joseph McGrath, who had been in Taiwan, joined the two missionaries here in Hong Kong. Later that year the missionary home was moved to 232 Tai Po Road, where another Gilead graduate joined them, bringing the total to five.
FEARLESS IN FACE OF APPROACHING DANGER
Meanwhile, the political situation in China was greatly deteriorating and this would have far-reaching effects on the Kingdom work. When at first the Communist forces were in the northern provinces, the little band of Witnesses had been able to go about their God-assigned work of making disciples without any serious problems. Life in Shanghai continued at its usual bustling, noisy pace. Then came the news that the Red armies had reached the northern banks of the Yangtze River and were threatening the Nationalist Kuo Ming Tang capital, Nanking. People in Shanghai now became nervous and worried, and a great exodus began. All financially able to do so began leaving the city, including the owner of the Kingdom Hall. Would they lose their Kingdom Hall? They were offered the whole bottom floor shop premises for $1,000, which the brothers themselves, with additional gifts from interested ones, were able to raise.
Life in Shanghai became more tense with each passing day. By the spring of 1949 the Reds were on the offensive and the Nationalists were leaving the mainland and fleeing to Taiwan. British and American warships, usually seen anchored in the Hwang Pu River, were now gone. As the missionaries lay in their beds at night they could hear gunfire in the distance as the Communist forces neared Shanghai.
Now Brothers Jones and King were faced with a weighty decision themselves. Would they leave Shanghai before the city fell to the Communists or would they stay with their brothers and give them needed help and support? After a long discussion and after asking Jehovah’s guidance on the matter, it was decided that they both would stay and care for Jehovah’s “sheep.”
Then one night the gunfire was heavier and louder than usual. The early morning radio announcement was that the city had fallen! Brothers Jones and King went out to buy food and saw the streets lined with Communist troops, squatting, lying on sidewalks and looking very weary. Radio announcements informed the people that they had nothing to fear from the Red Army as they were the friends of the people, and to carry on as normal. Freedom was guaranteed, they said.
That first day of the take-over, Brothers Jones and King made quick visits to the publishers and found them all well. Plans were that they would carry on their ministry as usual. Since so many assurances had been given that minorities and religious groups would be protected, there appeared to be no reason to do otherwise. Congregation meetings went on as usual, and, in fact, attendance increased. Reception at the doors was at first normal, but it gradually became tougher as more people began to succumb to the propaganda of the new government. The Chinese dollar stood at $100 million to one U.S. dollar. Bound books were placed at the doors for $10 million each! Even a beggar was a millionaire.
In spite of the conditions, following the Communist take-over, many very fine persons took hold of the truth and stood firm when Jehovah’s witnesses were arrested and imprisoned. One was William Koo, who, after studying with Brother King and making good progress, eventually became a congregation overseer in Shanghai. M. P. Liu got the truth through Brother Lew and became very active in the work. Others included the Liang family, who, although having to be disciplined by the organization, later repented, and continue to stand firm. These then are some of the ones who remain in the memory of their brothers. But, more important, Jehovah knows about them and will reward them according to their work.
In the first year of Communist rule, Brother King contacted C. C. Chen. This young man displayed unusual interest. It was not long before he was baptized and took on special duties of trust in the congregation. The Communist government assigned him to work in the Shanghai power station under Brother Vong for training in electrical engineering. Little did the brothers in the congregation realize that this C. C. Chen had been overreached by Communist ideals and was being used by them as a spy in the congregation. Later, at the trial of Brothers Jones and King, he was the key prosecution witness. It was obvious that he had been supplying the Communists with information for a long time.
For the first three years, the work, including house-to-house ministry, continued unhindered. The brothers carried on their ministry quite openly, as the Communists were busy setting up their own enterprises and administration. In 1950 eleven were baptized. In 1951, there were 105 attending the Memorial, and a license to import literature from Hong Kong was obtained so that the brothers were able to get all the latest English publications.
A question often asked was: Could someone of typical Chinese and Buddhist background and with no prior knowledge of the Bible be helped to accept the truth? The answer came when Paul Lam, in the course of his secular work, witnessed to Helen Lau, the owner of a Chinese herbal tea shop. Brother Lam placed the Chinese Salvation book with her and offered to help her understand the Bible. Even though her English was very limited, she attended meetings and took the English book “Let God Be True.” She began sharing in the field ministry, was baptized and began pioneering in 1954. She soon interested her two younger sisters, who were moved by the friendliness and patience of the Witnesses, and they too became servants of Jehovah. Yes, it was proved that Bible truth could overcome the strong Chinese traditions.
Another study was started with a young man who “wanted to learn English,” but who learned much more. Lam Yan Yue and some schoolmates started studying with Brother Carnie. The schoolmates eventually quit, but the friendliness and sincerity of the missionaries impressed Yan Yue. He was not afraid of “losing face” but, instead, was appreciative of the missionary who, as he puts it, “was not afraid to correct my wrong ideas.” He was in time baptized and later began serving as a congregation overseer.
DIFFICULTIES INCREASE ON THE MAINLAND
With the Communist machine becoming more fully operational, workers had to attend Communist meetings before and after work. Each lane had its “committee” and political meetings and they would report any “anti-Communist” elements. Communist control was also extended to religion. All religions were to have Chinese preachers, be Chinese financed and Chinese organized. Any not conforming to this had to register. Jehovah’s witnesses therefore had to register.
In 1952 there were twenty-two publishers and seventeen were baptized. Life was now becoming more difficult for the local brothers. They were required to study the “thoughts of Mao.” During and after working hours they would find the doors locked so that no one could leave. They must listen to the expounding of Communism for up to four hours at a time. No wonder that they found much refreshment at the Kingdom Hall. As one brother expressed it, “The little Kingdom Hall in Shanghai was like an oasis in the midst of a parched desert of hateful political oppression.” It was because of Jehovah’s spirit and regularly feeding on his Word that our dear brothers were able to survive the spiritual wilderness of Communist China. They did not get discouraged and were overjoyed to see eighty-five attend the 1953 Memorial with ten baptized for the year.
THE BEGINNING OF THE END
One day when Brother King was preaching, a fanatical lane watchman created a nasty scene. Before he knew it, Brother King was facing a hostile crowd. A policeman came along and firmly told Brother King he was wrong because he was indoctrinating the people and disturbing their peace. Two days later the missionaries were called to the police station. The orders were clear: “No preaching outside the Kingdom Hall.” The only visiting allowed would be to people with whom Bible studies were being conducted, and their names had to be supplied to the police. Yet, not one Bible study was lost.
Now the brothers could see that the work would have to be carried on more cautiously. Europeans stood out noticeably, so it was agreed that the Chinese brothers would carry on the field ministry from house to house while the missionaries would do witnessing in the shops and to others they met along the way.
In early 1954, one of the missionaries, Lew Ti Himm, died. He had been a zealous and tireless worker. That same year, even though the disciplining of a couple led to the loss of ten publishers, yet there was a new peak of Kingdom preachers in March 1955, with the brothers spending an average of 10.6 hours in the ministry. The highlight of the year was the attendance of 175 at the Memorial.
By this time most supplies of literature had been cut off, although magazines continued coming for a while. But then these stopped in 1956. Actually, there was no public ban on the publications. They just never reached here. Brother King recalls: “Not one copy ever slipped through. My word, they were thorough!” However, a faithful sister in England helped out by writing the gist of the Watchtower study articles in air letters and mailing them to Shanghai.
In mid-1956, trouble flared up again. Five publishers were detained by the police and questioned for five hours. Nancy Yuen was detained for four days. This was a warning to “keep your religion in your own church building.” Our brothers kept preaching, but with great caution. Just four months later, Nancy Yuen was arrested for the second time. She had gone to a Bible study and never returned home. Inquiries as to her welfare and whereabouts by the missionaries were firmly rebuffed with: “This is a Chinese affair. Mind your own business.” From that time on, her mother took care of her little children. She was able to visit Nancy two years later at the detention center. During those years Nancy had been constantly interrogated in an effort to have her accuse her brothers, but she remained loyal to Jehovah and her brothers. Finally she was sentenced to imprisonment. On one occasion Brother Jones caught a glimpse of her in the courtyard of the Shanghai jail where he was later imprisoned.
The International Refugee Organization now wound up operations and those under its jurisdiction were resettled in other lands. Thus Brothers Mobius, Guettler and Poethko had to leave. Foreign business firms closed down and the Groezingers left. Brothers Jones and King now had to do a considerable amount of work to support themselves. Jehovah blessed their efforts, and they rejoiced to see 107 attend the 1958 Memorial.
After the international assembly of Jehovah’s witnesses in New York in 1958, it was arranged for Brother Charles, the branch overseer in Hong Kong, to return by ship by way of Shanghai and visit our brothers there. (Brother Jones had earlier applied for an exit visa to leave China and attend the assembly, but it was refused, thus letting them know they were not allowed to leave the country.) When the ship arrived in port no one was allowed ashore. But Brothers Jones and King took a ferry trip down the river in an effort to see Brother Charles. They did get a glimpse of him and waved, and a message got through. Brother King, with his big, booming voice, called out, “Please tell Mother we are all happy and well!” Brother Charles replied, “250,000 send you their love.” He was referring, of course, to the number who attended the “Divine Will” International Assembly in New York city, July 27 to August 3.
The fine stand taken by Jehovah’s witnesses greatly angered other religious groups who had made one compromise after another. They now put pressure on the police and complained about Jehovah’s witnesses’ being allowed to continue without state interference. This had its effect.
On October 14, 1958, Brothers Jones and King had risen at 6:30 a.m., prepared their breakfast and were about to sit down when Brother King noticed police running into their lane. “I wonder who they are after now,” he remarked. The answer came with a violent banging on their own door. They were placed under arrest as “reactionaries” and the home was thoroughly searched. Five hours later they were taken to a detention center, where they continued under constant interrogation for two years.
At their trial in 1960, names of Chinese brothers and sisters were read out and it was stated that these would be tried later. The congregation overseer, Brother Koo, also Brother Liu and Nancy Yuen were on the long list of names. Thus in October 1958 the work of Jehovah’s witnesses was forcibly brought to a halt in China.
ORGANIZING FOR MORE EFFECTIVE WORK IN HONG KONG
During those years efforts to preach the good news with greater effectiveness continued in Hong Kong. Brothers Knorr and Henschel visited Hong Kong in April 1951. Speaking in the Star Theatre to an audience of 707, Brother Knorr gave the widely advertised talk “Proclaim Liberty Throughout the Land.” This visit was a great encouragement to the five missionaries and a prelude to establishing a branch office on September 1, 1951, with Brother Carnie as the branch overseer. In the next few years nine more missionaries were assigned to Hong Kong.
Still, among the missionaries during the early 1950’s nothing was being done about studying the Chinese language in an organized manner. Sister Gannaway recalls that when she came to Hong Kong in 1953, the only Chinese the missionaries were using was, “Yaumo yan sik-gong ying-mun?” meaning, “Is there anyone who speaks English?” The branch home was overcrowded, and noise from a teahouse below went on late into the night. Most timely, then, was Brother Knorr’s visit in April 1956. Quickly assessing the situation, he said: “From now on all meetings are to be conducted in Chinese and the missionaries are to learn and use the language.” Another missionary home was opened, and the following year The Watchtower and the book “Let God Be True” appeared in Chinese.
Brother Franz was the principal speaker at an assembly held in January 1957 with the restful background of the sands of Repulse Bay beach. He stressed wholehearted work and loyalty to Jehovah’s visible organization. When he took time to talk to groups of local brothers, they were deeply impressed. Brother Franz also met with the nineteen missionaries and special pioneers and discussed their problems and gave fine exhortation to faithfulness. By December 1958, the first three pioneers to attend Gilead from Hong Kong had graduated and returned, and Kenneth Gannaway, who had been serving in the Leeward Islands, West Indies, joined the missionary group, making a total of thirteen missionaries in the two homes.
MACAO HEARS THE GOOD NEWS
Forty miles across the estuary of the Pearl River from Hong Kong lies the Portuguese colony of Macao. It is the oldest Western settlement on the China coast, and consists of a narrow neck of land six miles long by one mile wide and two small islands. The city itself reminds one of old Portugal, yet the Oriental way of life predominates. Portuguese is the official language but the majority are Chinese and speak Cantonese.
Two special pioneers were sent to Macao in February 1963. One of them, Daniel Ng, made a fine contact with a twenty-one-year-old Chinese man named John Chu who had recently arrived from Indonesia. A home Bible study was started and the whole family, including mother and father, joined in. John was soon sharing in the preaching work, but, unfortunately, the two special pioneers found it necessary to leave by the end of the year. However, John was alone for only three months, and during that time the circuit overseer, Brother Thorn, paid him a five-day visit and gave much needed help. His seriousness and zeal were amazing. The day Brother Thorn left, John came to his hotel at 6:30 a.m. to learn further how he should carry on the work.
Mary Chan and Lee King Foon, two experienced special pioneers, arrived in June 1964. Their organized activity brought good results, and by 1965 three publishers were sharing in the field ministry and thirty-one attended the Memorial. This fine activity did not go unnoticed by the Catholic Church, and soon the secret police were watching. One Sunday afternoon while the Watchtower study was in progress in John’s home, the secret police burst in, confiscated all the literature and Bibles and ordered all present to the police station. The next day the two special pioneers were ordered back to Hong Kong. While some, out of fear, stopped associating, the remainder of the group were strengthened by the experience and have continued cautiously giving the witness.
Over the past few years a strong Communist faction has come to the fore and made its presence felt in Macao. They have proved just as fanatical and hard to deal with as the Roman Catholic faction. While these two factions have watched each other and vied for power, Jehovah’s witnesses have gone about quietly giving the witness concerning God’s kingdom. One special pioneer from Hong Kong recently returned after spending four years working with the little group. There are now six publishers sharing in the Lord’s work and their zeal is shown by the fact that in the 1973 service year they spent an average of 12.3 hours in the field ministry and twenty attended the Memorial. It does make our hearts glad to know that two of these publishers served as regular pioneers during the 1973 service year and will serve as special pioneers this coming year. Brother John Chu continues to take a mature lead in this small congregation of Jehovah’s people.
JOYS, GROWTH AND TRIALS
In Hong Kong, the majority of those interested in the truth are young persons. It seems that the older generations are firmly set in their ways and will not change for fear that when they die it may go bad with them if they have left Chinese traditions. One young girl, May Yu, started going to meetings at the age of thirteen when they were conducted in English. Although not knowing English, she enjoyed the genuine friendliness and love shown. Needless to say, she rejoiced greatly when the meetings were changed to Chinese. The experience of this young girl in school well emphasizes the amount of pressure put on students in Hong Kong and which causes many new ones to drop away from the truth during school years.
Sister May Yu comments: “During 1961, I was busily preparing for the final year at school, the year when all are tense preparing for final examinations. Pressure and increased amounts of homework made even twenty-four hours a day insufficient time to meet the demands. More education, university, better paying jobs, parents’ and teacher’s reputation were all constantly thrown up to us. I thought it might threaten my spirituality. However, the interchange of encouragement, the counsel to make the ministry my life’s vocation, and personal study helped me to come out victorious over the pressure of this materialistic society.” Sister Yu was instrumental in helping a fellow schoolmate to come to a knowledge of the truth, and later this schoolmate served as a special pioneer for a number of years. In November 1962, Sister Yu became a special pioneer and continues in full-time service today at Bethel as a translator.
A stimulus came with the “Everlasting Good News” International Assembly, held in the City Hall, August 13-18, 1963. Hong Kong’s 222 publishers, pioneers and missionaries worked tirelessly in preparation for this and were not disappointed. The visit of almost 500 fellow Christians did much to deepen the appreciation of the local brothers who had never visited other countries. They could see firsthand the love and unity displayed by their foreign brothers, and this gave them a much broader view of Jehovah’s wonderful organization. With renewed zeal they went back to the field, and the following Memorial 459 were in attendance.
The month of April 1964 brought a sad note for the brothers in Hong Kong as one of the first missionaries, “Bill” Carnie, died. He had served as branch overseer for about twelve years altogether. Brother Carnie loved people and showed the fruits of the spirit wherever he worked. He is still remembered warmly by all who knew him.
Our brothers in Hong Kong have always shown a loving concern for their brothers imprisoned behind the Bamboo Curtain. Daily they remember these brothers in their prayers. What joy they expressed on seeing Harold King released from China in 1963! Here was one of their brothers who had spent four and a half years in prison and yet was still strong in the faith. They also learned from him of the faith of their Chinese brothers still in prison. Then, in 1965, Stanley Jones was released after seven years of imprisonment and he had more good news to tell them of the faithfulness of their brothers in China. While in China everything was dull and austere, Hong Kong was gay with great material prosperity. Brother Jones took note of this and the brothers appreciated his timely counsel on not becoming ensnared with materialism and losing out on everlasting life.
In 1966, Hong Kong gratefully received another group of seven missionaries from the forty-first class of Gilead. This allowed the opening of another missionary home in Kowloon in a previously almost untouched territory, the industrial area called Kwun Tong. There were no publishers in all this area, the population then numbering about 225,000, so the missionaries were welcome. Unlike early missionaries, these new missionaries embarked upon the Society-arranged two-month language course under an appointed instructor. So, in a relatively short time, they had a good working foundation of the Cantonese dialect.
Early in 1967, the missionaries started noting a change of attitude among the people in general. Something was brewing. In 1966 there had been relatively minor riots over a 5-cent increase in ferry fares. Was something like this in the making? In a monthly report to the Society, the branch overseer, Brother Gannaway, noted: “It appears the Communists here have gained confidence from the victory in Macao. Now we note an antagonistic attitude toward religion as we have never noticed before. . . . It is evident that things could happen here very quickly.”
Soon after this, riots broke out all over Hong Kong. The Communist forces were trying to obtain the upper hand over the government and frighten people into supporting them. For a period they took to planting bombs indiscriminately, even in front of the building where we were holding a district assembly. Many people were injured by these bombs. Children who unknowingly would play with them were killed and maimed. The bombs turned the local residents against the Communist movement and averted a takeover.
Nevertheless, fear had struck the hearts of many. Outgoing ships and airplanes were booked by hundreds in anticipation of a mass exodus. Before the riots started, the Society had been encouraging meeting attendance and personal study, for this was a marked weak point. Those who did not take this counsel to heart lost out. Thus from a peak of 261 in 1967, the number of publishers dropped to an average of 218 in 1968.
How good it was to have Brother Knorr visit Hong Kong, in May 1968, and speak on the subject “You Must Not Forget”! The brothers gave rapt attention and Brother Knorr was impressed that “each time I quoted a scripture, every head in the audience bowed as they diligently looked up the text.” This visit was just what was needed and filled the brothers with confidence and determination to stick with the work and serve Jehovah with a strong heart. The work moved forward again and, for the first time in fourteen years, congregation publishers averaged over ten hours, and 558 attended the 1968 Memorial.
In attendance at Brother Knorr’s talk there was an interested person, Mrs. Fok, who was moved by what she heard and saw. Her experience shows that if one is truly seeking for truth, one will find it. “When I was eleven years old, my father was killed in Canton,” she says. “In the years following I saw much killing and hatred. This caused me to begin thinking seriously about life. I decided to flee China, and after much difficulty I was smuggled into Hong Kong. I thought I would find a better life in Hong Kong, but was disappointed. All I saw was competition, deception and cruelty, and this led me to wonder about the meaning of life. I saw the harmony in nature, and yet man’s life was just the opposite. So I wanted answers and to find the truth, if it existed.” She began studying books on philosophy, which did not satisfy her craving.
Then Jehovah’s witnesses called on her. At first, it was not the truth that appealed to her as much as the genuine love and concern shown for people by the Witnesses. When she went to hear Brother Knorr’s talk, she said: “I was surprised to see that the Witnesses all displayed warm friendliness and love toward one another. They were filled with joy and faith. So I thought that they must have something precious that others do not have.” This led her to study more diligently and she was soon convinced that this was the truth she had looked for so long. She now feels “very much indebted to Jehovah that he sent out someone to preach” to her. She is now a zealous baptized publisher who temporary pioneers on every occasion possible. She has done this although she has a large family and an opposed husband. Her younger brother recently escaped from China and she had high hopes of helping him to accept the truth. However, as is usually the case with refugees, the brother is a staunch atheist and not interested. But Sister Fok has not given up.
Jehovah’s organization has provided abundantly for his people here. In addition to two issues of The Watchtower in Chinese each month, we have had a monthly edition of Awake! in Chinese since 1962. Awake! has been well received and has played a big role in softening up the territory for a greater witness. Five of the more recent bound books of the Society and six booklets are also available in Chinese. With such a fine array of Bible study aids, a prominent Lutheran missionary commented that, of all the religions, Jehovah’s witnesses have the best set of publications in Chinese.
Nothing has ever had such an impact on the brothers in the field as the book The Truth That Leads to Eternal Life. When the first shipment arrived in 1969, there was some doubt about the ability of local people to learn the truth and take action in just six months. But the concise, clear and to-the-point information has not only helped the publishers tremendously, but also resulted in a solid, loyal group of new praisers of Jehovah.
It should be mentioned that the branch office of the Society has been moved to a better location, 312 Prince Edward Road, Second Floor, Kowloon. At first the Society had only one flat, but, when it became available, they also bought the adjoining flat, giving more space for storage and additional missionaries.
The 1969 “Peace on Earth” assembly will also long be remembered in the hearts of Hong Kong brothers. The visitors from some thirteen countries, the information presented on the program, the dramas, and having three members of the Governing Body, Brothers Knorr, Franz and Suiter, gave the brothers here another boost. The missionaries, too, thanked Jehovah and his organization for the kindness shown them by assisting them to return to their home countries to attend an assembly and visit their families. They returned with renewed zeal to carry on with their assignment here.
In 1970 the Society assigned nine zealous young sisters from the special pioneer ranks in the Philippines to serve as missionaries in Hong Kong. They tackled the language as just another dialect of the Philippines, and with this positive attitude they have done exceptionally well. They have learned, though, of the endurance and patience that is needed before they see new ones make a dedication and become baptized. Thus they appreciate the example of such missionaries as Beth Gannaway and Elizabeth Jarvis, who have spent twenty and sixteen years respectively, patiently serving in this assignment.
Another encouraging note is that although some persons have had to leave the missionary work for health, family or other reasons, the majority have stayed in Hong Kong and continue as faithful publishers of the Kingdom. They still consider Hong Kong their assignment, and the local brothers love them for this.
It should be remembered that almost no one comes into the truth here without a real struggle. A recent typical experience in Kwun Tong will illustrate this. Fu-lone Liang studied with a young Catholic boy. After many “battles” over doctrine he saw that this was the truth and decided to take action. Because his parents saw that using time for meetings and field service would interfere with his making money, they started all sorts of persecution. He dreaded returning home from a meeting. Shouting, cursing and harassing by both parents would go on until early hours of the morning. His younger brothers and sisters were forbidden to talk to him. His father bodily stopped him from going to meetings at times and even chased him with a meat cleaver. The mother went to the Kingdom Hall several times and made a scene. One Sunday morning he was awakened by the sound of breaking glass. On checking he saw his mother breaking bottles. Why? “I am going down to that Kingdom Hall and blind all those missionaries!” This opposition went on nonstop for months until it became too dangerous for him to remain at home. Once he asked his parents: “Why are you so concerned about money? Didn’t you raise me for love?” Their reply: “No, for money!” Even after his leaving the home and moving in with a brother, the mother still came to the Kingdom Hall and tried to hit Brother Liang, and she spit in her boy’s face until she could spit no more. She then went yelling her feelings to any passersby that would listen. The young boy has since been baptized. He gives more than two thirds of his wages to his parents and just barely manages financially in an effort to keep them from speaking abusively of the truth. Nevertheless, when able, they still harass him. How good to see him standing firm for the truth and continuing to make progress!
Over the past twenty-three years, the records show that 427 have been baptized in Hong Kong and 135 in China. Many have not continued active but have been sidetracked. Others have left for other countries and are doing good work among the Chinese people elsewhere. So the history of Jehovah’s witnesses in Hong Kong shows that a lot of hard work has been done by the missionaries and the local brothers. The result is well summarized by the comment of a local sister: “In looking back over the years of work, I appreciate the important part played by the missionaries sent here by the Society. I can say that their loving concern for our spiritual welfare moved us to understand our relationship with Jehovah. Even now the missionaries are contributing much toward the strengthening of the publishers. Their friendliness, smiling faces and ability to fit in with the living standards of Hong Kong are a source of encouragement. There is no gap between the missionaries and the publishers.”
The 1973 service year moved off to a fine start with the appointment of elders to care for the spiritual needs of the congregations. The eight congregations were reduced to six so that this mature help was not spread out too thin. The response of the brothers was beyond all expectations. It was just what was needed. Now the brothers began showing a zeal for the ministry as never before. In December 1972 the publishers averaged 17.3 hours. Magazine supplies suddenly became inadequate and the publishers switched to offering two booklets on Magazine Day. The branch’s normal two-year supply of booklets went out in just three months. More began sharing in the temporary pioneer work each month, and in January 1973 a new peak of 270 publishers was reached.
During April 1973 the work continued its forward surge. There were fifty-nine publishers who became temporary pioneers. There were six regular pioneers and twenty-eight special pioneers and missionaries, making a total of ninety-three in the pioneer ministry. Yes, one out of every three of our total publishers was a pioneer in April! Then came a new peak attendance for the Memorial, a total of 705.
At a circuit assembly in April it was announced that the “Divine Victory” International Assembly, scheduled for August 8-12, 1973, would be held in the Grantham College of Education, Kowloon. The zeal of the brothers in the ministry increased. Enthusiasm ran high as the assembly drew closer. The Kingdom Halls were full with about 130 percent attending the Watchtower study and 120 percent attending the service meeting and ministry school. The brothers were slow to move after the meetings, most stayed on and talked and enjoyed Christian fellowship. A fine warm spirit permeated the entire organization.
The “Divine Victory” International Assembly came all too fast. For five days the brothers enjoyed a rich spiritual banquet. They enjoyed the warm Christian fellowship with more than 300 brothers from other lands. But what our brothers appreciated most of all was the presence of five members of the Governing Body. To meet these brothers in person, to hear their fine talks and see their fine example of humility have brought our Hong Kong brothers closer to Jehovah and his organization.
Perhaps the results of the past service year and the present spirit of the brothers in Hong Kong can be captured from the comments of the branch overseer, Brother Gannaway, in his closing remarks to the assembly. “This has been the most thrilling year in giving the witness to the people of Hong Kong,” he said. Then he went on to tell his audience that in July another new peak of 271 publishers had been reached and 35 had been baptized for the service year. But most encouraging was the fact that half the publishers had been in the temporary pioneer service during the year. The brothers rejoiced at hearing that at the end of July there were already new peaks in all features of the field ministry and there was still the August report to be counted!
Jehovah’s witnesses are very much alive and very active in this difficult field. They are exerting themselves in giving the witness and making disciples. They can see that Jehovah is speeding up the work and are confident that he will open up the hearts of many more sheeplike ones to learn the truth. There is a fine potential for further increase among the many new ones now associating. As for our dear brothers behind the “Bamboo Curtain,” we can remember them in our prayers before Jehovah. Once in a while, word comes through that lets us know they are keeping their integrity in that land. Whether a further witness will be given in China or not before the “great tribulation” breaks we must leave in the hands of our loving God, Jehovah.